By Nicky Phillips - In nature, polygamy and orgies are rife (bonobos, chimpanzees). Love-making is often a loud, public affair (lions, flies) and cross-species sex is not unheard of (mules).
But some mating rituals are truly bizarre.
Take leopard slugs as an example. When these kinky couples are ready to mate they dangle themselves from a tree on a long cord of mucous. As hermaphrodites, each lover has both male and female reproductive organs. Once the pair are locked in a love embrace they entwine their penises to exchange sperm and fertilize each other.
Now imagine if your sole reason for existing was to have sex, once. And then die. For male bees, called drones, gettin' buzzy with a queen bee is their only purpose in life.
At about 12 days old, drones fly out of their colony and gather in a large open area surrounded by trees - a drone congregation area - where they search for a queen to inject with their sperm. But cavorting with a monarch comes at a price. The drone's penis, called an endophallus, is so large compared with its body that to inject sperm into the queen mid-flight he must invert his tiny body. This process is explosive - sperm blasting into the female's oviduct - and renders the drone paralyzed. Off snaps the male's penis, where it remains inside the queen like a plug. The whole affair lasts about five seconds and ends with the drone's death.
But the semen plug does not deter the promiscuous queen, who then goes on to mate with about 19 more partners before returning to her hive to lay eggs.
While drones pay a high price for sex, their lives are short-lived and, as there are far more drones than queens, most males die without having achieved their goal.
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