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15 Animals With Crazy Sex Lives

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Birds do it, bees do it—and sometimes it gets kinky.

1. Hippopotamuses

Randy male hippos pull out all the stops to compete for the few eligible females in the pod: Bulls spin their tails as they urinate and defecate, spraying the vicinity with waste.

2. Barnacles

Long-distance relationships are hard. And when you're a barnacle permanently affixed to the bottom of a ship or rock, almost every relationship is a long-distance relationship. The good news: Hermaphroditic barnacles can still have sexual relations with their faraway—or not so faraway—loves with an inflatable penis that stretches up to eight times their body length, making it the longest in the animal kingdom relative to body size. 

3. Bedbugs

Another reason to hate bedbugs: They have no patience for romance! Instead of using a little foreplay in bed (or on a couch or movie theater seat or an entire Brooklyn apartment building), a male bedbug simply stabs the female in the stomach and releases his sperm into her circulatory system. Females can survive the act, thanks to a spermalege (a specialized region of the abdomen) that heals the wound. Male bedbugs that are accidentally impaled sometimes die.

4. Praying Mantises

Love can make you lose your head. Sex with a female praying mantis often will—especially in a lab and definitely if she's hungry. After some courtship dancing, a female will sweep a male off his feet and onto her back for fertilization. Once he finds his rhythm, she sometimes bites his head off. Some scientists believe it makes the male thrust harder. Others say it makes mating last longer, increasing reproductive sex. But we definitely know that it isn't good for him.

5. Anglerfish

Talk about a stage five clinger. Male anglerfish lose their digestive systems when they reach adulthood, so after hatching, they immediately bite and attach to females like a parasite. Their bodies waste away, but that doesn't mean romance dies. The lump left on a female's body contains a male appendage to fertilize the female's eggs 'til (her) death do they part. 

6. Flatworms

En guarde! Hermaphroditic flatworms can play the male or female role when mating, but they prefer the former. Instead of taking turns or playing rock-scissors-paper, flatworms whip out their sharp, dagger-like penises for a violent fencing match. The loser gets pregnant—the first stabbed flatworm absorbs the other's sperm. 

7. Ducks

When ducks screw, they literally screw. Males and females have corkscrew-shaped genitalia that fit together like lock and the completely wrong key—the genitalia spiral in different directions. The Argentine lake duck's junk is as long as its body, measuring in at about 17 inches long. The mating scene for these birds is notoriously competitive—pair-bonding is rare, and females play very hard to get. So well-endowed drakes use their penises as lassos to grab females and as brushes to clean other drakes' sperm out of oviducts. 

8. Porcupines

Females porcupines are only open to mating a few hours a year. To figure out if a female's in the mood, a male stands on his hind legs and urinates all over her. If she shakes off the urine in disgust, he's not getting any action. But if she exposes her underbelly, it is so on. And on and on. Porcupines mate many times until they're both exhausted. 

9. Banana Slugs

Size matters to the bright yellow banana slug. Not only do these hermaphrodites have penises the same length as their bodies—six to eight inches—they could lose their family jewels altogether if they’re not careful. For reasons that are still slightly murky, banana slugs have been known to bite the penis off of the slug they just mated with ... and probably stop returning its texts.

10. Honey Bees

There are worker bees and then there are the drones, males specially selected to service the queen bee. To make their fertilization efforts count, their genitals have evolved to snap off inside the queen to provide sperm for years to come. The drones die soon after, never to see the future generation.

11. Soapberry Bugs

Louis J Bradley, Wikimedia Commons

Of course, an animal doesn't always sacrifice its naughty bits for an evolutionary advantage. The soapberry bug gets clingy instead. During mating, males and females are physically stuck together—rear end to rear end—for up to 11 days. Some of these bugs won't separate until it's time for the female to lay eggs. And once she's done? More mating.

12. Garter Snakes

Post-hibernation, female red-sided garter snakes secrete a pheromone that brings all the boyssss to the yard. Hundreds of male snakes convene to form a large mating ball. Fortunately, their two hemipenes—penises on either side of the body—make penetration easier during the slithering orgy.  

13. Jellyfish

Like many a Tinder flirtation, male and female jellyfish never meet. But that doesn't keep them from making babies. Males release sperm through their mouths and leave it in the water. Females either keep their eggs in pouches near their mouths and swim through the sperm, or keep eggs in their mouths while sperm swims into their stomachs. When the eggs hatch, the swarm of larvae, known as planula, of many species attach themselves to a hard surface and buds on its own. 

14. Garden Snails

Garden snails could teach Sting a thing or two about tantric sex. The hermaphroditic gastropods stroke, bite, and fondle each other for up to six hours before the hydraulic pressure builds and they shoot love darts at their mates. And no, that's not a euphemism. The mucus-covered darts are full of calcium and shot pre-sex to increase the amount of sperm that ends up in the female. Too bad snails can't see what they're doing—their genitals and dart sacs are right behind their eye-stalks. Like Cupid's arrows, love darts often miss their target. 

15. Argonauts

Bernd Hofmann 

Some men will give you their hearts, but the argonaut, or paper nautilus, actually gives away its penis. Sperm is stored in a special tentacle called the hectocotylus. When a male argonaut finds a mate, it simply releases the tentacle and sends it swimming over to the lovely lady. It all works out, because male argonauts only mate once in a lifetime and don't need their genitals for later. Save yourself for someone special, guys!

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats 'Blep'?
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As pet owners are well aware, cats are inscrutable creatures. They hiss at bare walls. They invite petting and then answer with scratching ingratitude. Their eyes are wandering globes of murky motivations.

Sometimes, you may catch your cat staring off into the abyss with his or her tongue lolling out of their mouth. This cartoonish expression, which is atypical of a cat’s normally regal air, has been identified as a “blep” by internet cat photo connoisseurs. An example:

Cunning as they are, cats probably don’t have the self-awareness to realize how charming this is. So why do cats really blep?

In a piece for Inverse, cat consultant Amy Shojai expressed the belief that a blep could be associated with the Flehmen response, which describes the act of a cat “smelling” their environment with their tongue. As a cat pants with his or her mouth open, pheromones are collected and passed along to the vomeronasal organ on the roof of their mouth. This typically happens when cats want to learn more about other cats or intriguing scents, like your dirty socks.

While the Flehmen response might precede a blep, it is not precisely a blep. That involves the cat’s mouth being closed while the tongue hangs out listlessly.

Ingrid Johnson, a certified cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the owner of Fundamentally Feline, tells Mental Floss that cat bleps may have several other plausible explanations. “It’s likely they don’t feel it or even realize they’re doing it,” she says. “One reason for that might be that they’re on medication that causes relaxation. Something for anxiety or stress or a muscle relaxer would do it.”

A photo of a cat sticking its tongue out
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If the cat isn’t sedated and unfurling their tongue because they’re high, then it’s possible that an anatomic cause is behind a blep: Johnson says she’s seen several cats display their tongues after having teeth extracted for health reasons. “Canine teeth help keep the tongue in place, so this would be a more common behavior for cats missing teeth, particularly on the bottom.”

A blep might even be breed-specific. Persians, which have been bred to have flat faces, might dangle their tongues because they lack the real estate to store it. “I see it a lot with Persians because there’s just no room to tuck it back in,” Johnson says. A cat may also simply have a Gene Simmons-sized tongue that gets caught on their incisors during a grooming session, leading to repeated bleps.

Whatever the origin, bleps are generally no cause for concern unless they’re doing it on a regular basis. That could be sign of an oral problem with their gums or teeth, prompting an evaluation by a veterinarian. Otherwise, a blep can either be admired—or retracted with a gentle prod of the tongue (provided your cat puts up with that kind of nonsense). “They might put up with touching their tongue, or they may bite or swipe at you,” Johnson says. “It depends on the temperament of the cat.” Considering the possible wrath involved, it may be best to let them blep in peace.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Why Crows Hold Noisy Funerals for Their Fallen Friends
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The next time you hear a murder of crows cackling for no apparent reason, show a little respect: You may have stumbled onto a crow funeral. Crows are among the few animals that exhibit a social response to a dead member of their species. Though their caws may sound like heartbroken cries, such funerals aren't so much about mourning their fallen friends as they are about learning from their mistakes.

In the video below from the PBS series Deep Look, Kaeli Swift, a researcher at the University of Washington's Avian Conservation Lab, investigates this unusual phenomenon firsthand. She familiarized herself with a group of crows in a Seattle park by feeding them peanuts in the same spot for a few days. After the crows got used to her visits, she returned to the site holding a dead, taxidermied crow and wearing a mask and wig to hide her identity. The crows immediately started their ritual by gathering in the trees and crying in her direction. According to Swift, this behavior is a way for crows to observe whatever might have killed the dead bird and learn to avoid the same fate. Flocking into a large, noisy group provides them protection from the threat if it's still around.

She tested her theory by returning to the same spot the next week without her mask or the stuffed crow. She offered the crows peanuts just as she had done before, only this time the birds were skittish and hesitant to take them from her. The idea that crows remember and learn from their funerals was further supported when she returned wearing the mask and wig. Though she didn't have the dead bird with her this time, the crows were still able to recognize her and squawked at her presence. Even birds that weren't at the funeral learned from the other birds' reactions and joined in the ruckus.

Swift was lucky this group of crows wasn't particularly vengeful. Crows have been known to nurse and spread grudges, sometimes dive-bombing people that have harmed one of their own.

[h/t Deep Look]

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