Valentine's Day: The animals that don't do romance

13/02/15

Parrot

If you're not in the mood for romance this 14 February, spare a thought for these animals.

From exploding testicles to post-coital cannibalism, the bees and insects of the animal kingdom will never ever receive roses and chocolates from their mates.

The male honey bee is one example.

His penis is doomed to be ripped from his body along with his intestines when he goes looking for love.

During the mating flight, several male bees, called drones, will be selected from thousands of others in their colony to mount the virgin queen bee mid-flight.

Penis ripped off

Male honey bee

After copulating, the end of his penis rips off, his testicles explode and he falls to the ground dead, his abdomen severed from his body.

His sole purpose is to mate with the queen, so even if he does survive this brutal amputation, he will be ejected from the hive, useless.

Though bizarre, the honey bees explosive copulation is thought to make evolutionary sense as the tip of the penis remains in the queen, stopping another male from mating with her and allowing his genetic material to be passed on.

He is not alone in his romantic distress.

Between the sheets

bed bugs
Image caption Bed bugs are often found in hotels having spread rapidly around the world over the past 20 years

Bed bugs may be copulating in mattresses and warm duvets but for the female, the process is anything but comfortable.

These insects mate by traumatic insertion, which means that the male penetrates the female by piercing her tummy and ejaculating directly into this hole.

This allows the sperm to get close to the ovaries. However, it creates an open wound in the female which can get infected. Ouch.

Young Ro-mantis

Praying Mantis

It's very much the male who gets the short end of the stick when praying mantises get down and dirty.

After doing a dance together the male hitches a ride on the female's back and they begin to copulate.

Yet the female has been known to chew off the male's head in a vicious act of sexual cannibalism either during or after the act (which can last up to six hours).

Scientists have noticed this decapitation sometimes means the male thrusts harder and can speed up ejaculation.

Kinky porcupines

Dorit the porcupine

The female porcupine is treated to a high-pressure stream of urine from her male companion before copulation begins.

This allows her to sniff her potential partner's pheromones, (personal chemicals) and decide if she wants to mate with him or not.

She then exposes her delicate underbelly where there are no spines, to allow the male access to her genitals.

Unlike females from some other species, the male is not able to force her to have sex as she can swipe him away with her spiky tail.

White-fronted parrot

Vomit is a sign of affection
Image caption Vomit is a sign of affection

The male white fronted parrot vomits into the female mouth prior to mating. It's a sign of affection.

It's unlikely to win you any prizes for romance in the human world, but for birds, regurgitating your food can be love's young dream.

Mothers often do it for their chicks when they bring food back to the nest.

Being needy

Anglerfish

Male deep sea (or sea-devil anglerfish) are sexual parasites.

They are not hunters and can only exist if they mate with the female.

Because the fish are natural loners and the ocean so large, they often starve to death as virgins.

Anglerfish
Image caption The sea devil appeared in Finding Nemo

After finding a mate in the deep blue abyss, the male promptly bites the female and fuses himself to her body.

His fins and eyes and some internal organs melt away and he lives the rest of his life attached, feeding on her blood supply and superior hunting skills.

At first scientists wondered why there were so many female fish and no males, until they released the much smaller male fish was actually attached to her body.

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