Salty Sex – Sea Slugs

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(C) David Doubilet National Geographic

Scientists are sexy. At least according to Business Insider. But do you really care about what the scientists look like when you can learn about actual sexy science? Male lions giving hickeys to females, female spiders cannibalising males during sex or antechinus mating themselves to death. This only brushes the surface of crazy animal sex.  To discover the truly fascinating mating strategies we need to delve deeper.  In fact, we need to jump into the big, blue sea.

Some of the most intriguing mating systems receive much less attention. Maybe because it usually involves expensive equipment just to get a peep at the animals under the surface. However, here is a world of disposable penises, traumatic insemination, asexual reproduction (no partner needed!), pregnant males, males with disproportionately large penises, aggressive competitions, die-hard romantics … the list is endless!  So today I am here to spread the word about salty sex.

Let’s start with the inappropriately named sea slugs.  These beautiful, brightly coloured molluscs can be found all over the world.  Not only are these guys favourite subjects for underwater photographers, they also bring new meaning to the King Missile song, “Detachable Penis”. In other words, after mating the penis drops off. However, these lucky buggers can grow a brand new one in 24hrs. This little miracle can happen only three times.  Luckily these critters have both male and female reproductive organs. So after all the penises are lost to the sea, they can continue mating as a female!

Stay tuned for the next installment of salty sex.

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Swamp Fox Guppies?

Guppies

Swamp fox describes a hot girl who surrounds herself with ugly friends.  Whilst this term may not be socially appropriate, it’s more than apt for guppies.  Researchers from the University of Padova, Italy have discovered that sexy male guppies choose to socialize with less colourful males.

Published in Proceedings of the Royal SocietyDr Clelia Gasparini and colleagues used an elegant experimental design which allowed males to choose whether to socialise with beautifully coloured males or dull males.  Under the watchful eye of a female, male guppies preferred to chill out with drab males.  Furthermore, the duller the male, the more likely he is to associate with less attractive males.

Acting in this way will improve a male’s chance of enticing a female, particularly for less attractive males which can’t compete with the best and brightest guppies.  Then they also have the added bonus of not attracting predators with colourful body patterns.

So it appears, at least for the guppy, that surrounding yourself with uglier friends can help you find a mate!