Going out with a bang
Fourteen Fun Facts About Love and Sex in the Animal Kingdom Out in the wild, flowers and candy just aren’t gonna cut it Giraffes kissing Two giraffes (Krys Bailey / Alamy Stock Photo) By Katherine J. Wu , Rachael Lallensack SMITHSONIANMAG.COM FEBRUARY 14, 2020 Dating apps have reduced the ritual of human coupling down to a swipe. Out in the wild, though, love and sex don’t come as easy. Creatures of all sorts have evolved some pretty spectacular strategies to woo their mates and ensure their genes carry on. Here are just a few examples of extreme courtship and copulation that put us tech-savvy humans to shame. You gonna drink that? Like humans, giraffes undergo cycles of fertility. Unlike (most) humans, giraffes will sip each other’s urine—a surefire way to tell if a female is in heat. This time-saving technique ensures that a male won’t waste energy snooping around a lady who won’t give him the time of day or is unlikely to conceive if they couple up. A male will crane his long neck over to the female’s rump, nuzzling his head against her genitals. After she gives her suitor careful consideration (giraffes pregnancy can be a 15-month commitment), the female will voluntarily release a squirt of pee for her partner to catch in his mouth and “savor,” researchers David M. Pratt and Virginia H. Anderson wrote in a 1984 paper. In a bizarre evolutionary twist, the giraffe tongue functions a bit like an ovulation stick, sensitive enough to detect the hormones that can tell a guy if his girl is hot to trot. Going out with a bang antechinus An antechinus captured in the field. (Mel Williams / Wikimedia Commons) For a two- or three-week stretch in early spring, Australian forests reverberate with the sexual shenanigans of the male antechinus. These tiny, tireless marsupials can engage in a single intimate encounter for 14 hours straight. Desperate, virile and indefatigable, each of these bitty boys will mate with as many females as possible, plugging away until the fur sloughs off his skin, his immune system fails and blood pools around his organs. In a grand culmination of this fornication feat, the male antechinus physically disintegrates: He quite literally boinks himself to death, usually just shy of his first birthday. So-called suicidal reproduction might sound absurd, but vigorous, organ-shredding sex is the antechinus males’ way of outcompeting each other in the reproductive race to father the most young. The more sperm a male churns out, the more successful he’ll be. A sexual sprint to the death is the antechinus’ one shot at passing on his genes, and he puts every second of it to good use.