by Nina Gan
If you’re wondering where Hollywood gets its strange ideas for props or weird behaviours, look no further than the quirky and entertaining reproductive world of animals.
While some of you may be proud of your knowledge of sex (actual practice aside), how many of you have any idea about the weird sex facts of the animal kingdom?
Nature’s Nether Regions
While nature has created genitals for reproduction, the sheer variety – and weird designs – out there definitely challenge our take on the word ‘penis envy’.
Take an echidna, for example: it has not one, but FOUR penis heads! However, only two of the heads are used at a time, which is a trait that it shares with reptiles (an ancestor of the echidna). Yes, reptiles – specifically ‘squamates’ like lizards and snakes – have penises with TWO heads. These are called ‘hemipenes’, which are stored inside the body until they’re squeezed out (like toothpaste) for mating.
The weirdness doesn’t stop there: marsupials (kangaroos, koalas, wombats, etc) all have double-headed (bifurcated) penises. Depending on the species, some have 2 separate, long protrusions (ie. sugar glider), while others seem to have 2 short ‘fingers’ at the end of the penis (ie. possum).
Multi-headed penises may sound gross, but did you know that most birds don’t even have penises? That’s why those that do – like the Argentinian Blue-bill – have to compensate for the rest of their feathered brethren. Its penis is about the same length as its body (42.5cm) and when erect, it explodes from within like a corkscrew! Curiously, the female Blue-bill’s uterus is also corkscrew shaped – and we assume both sexes mate by ‘screwing’ around.
More strangely-shaped penises belong to insects of all shapes and sizes. Take, for example, those of a weevil and a beetle. We have no idea why they’re shaped like medieval weapons, but we’re glad you need a microscope to see them.
Going on the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the longest penises (no surprise) belong to mammals like elephants and horses, but have you ever seen a tapir’s? It’s long enough it’s actually prehensile (ie. capable of grasping things).
If you’re tired of penises, then we’ll move onto the subject of testicles. Specifically those of a bat. Did you know that the bigger the bat testicle, the smaller the bat brain? This is because it takes a lot of energy to develop both parts, so bats have to choose between brain and balls. The biggest bat balls account for up to 10% of its body weight, which translates to a man lugging two 9lb bowling balls – with the brains of an idiot.
When it comes to the above body parts, you may be surprised that they’re not always used for reproduction. Autoeroticism does occur widely in the animal kingdom – while scientists debate about its evolutionary reason, it’s clear that humans are not alone in enjoying the act.
Our fellow apes (orangutans, chimps, etc) are among the most ardent and creative, using tools made of fruits and barks for the act.
Horses masturbate fairly frequently, and they do so by rocking their hips and bouncing up and down so that their penises rub and smack against their bellies. Moose don’t need any contact with their penises at all; they seem to be able to bring themselves to ejaculation just by rubbing their antlers on trees.
Bears and apes have been observed to enjoy a bit of oral stimulation; in Croatia, two captive brown bears were often seen in the act, with one giving oral sex to the other 28 times over the course of 6 years. Recently, a pair of gorillas were also caught in the act… in front of hoards of curious children.
A new study on 20 male Cape ground squirrels in 105 masturbation sessions (what a job!) revealed that these furry critters actually consumed their own ejaculate after auto-fellatio! The fact that their penises are 40% of their body length makes this task easy. A hypothesis claims that the act could be part of genital grooming to prevent disease.
While walruses mate during breeding season, they masturbate during the rest of the year. The males simply grab their penises with their flippers to get the job done. They’re also flexible enough to perform auto-fellation (the penis is long enough) without injuring themselves with their tusks.
Dolphins, like walruses, also have long penises which they can manipulate like an arm! Being that they’re smart creatures, masturbation is fairly common and there have been reports of dolphins using live wriggling eels for their pleasure. If that’s not gross enough, there’s even a case of a dolphin using a decapitated fish for the deed…