- The male brown antechinus mates with as many females as possible for up to 14 hours at a time. Unfortunately, the effort usually crashes his immune system and ultimately kills him.
- Meanwhile, when honey bees mate, the drone’s reproductive organs get ripped off, and his testicales explode.
- Male echidnas have a four-headed penis, so during sex, they alternate between spent pairs as each fire their semen.
Following is a transcript of the video.
The average couple has sex for anywhere from 30 seconds to about 45 minutes. Now, 45 minutes sounds long, until you consider the brown antechinus.
1. Brown antechinus
For two weeks every mating season, a male will mate as much as physically possible, sometimes having sex for up to 14 hours at a time, flitting from one female to the next. And all that testosterone revs up his stress hormone production into overdrive, crashing his immune system.
That in turn crashes his immune system, making him extremely vulnerable to disease and infection. Often times, he dies before his young are even born. Scientists call this kamikaze mating technique “suicidal reproduction.”
It turns out that for many species, sex kills.
Take the male honeybee. His primary job? Mate with the Queen. But sadly for him, he only gets to mate once because during the act, his reproductive organs are ripped off and his testicles explode. In the process, his semen shoots through her oviduct, where she stores it for later use.
Hey, at least it’s a quick death, especially compared to some deep-sea anglerfish, like the triplewart seadevil. This one’s a female. And you see that tiny parasite on her side? That’s the male. It would be like if a human male only came up to a woman’s ankle. Instead of hunting for his own food, the male bites into the female, fusing his body with hers and living off the nutrients in her blood In return, he provides the one thing he has to offer: sperm.
But there’s a catch. In the process, his body shrivels up. He loses his eyes, fins, and most internal organs, until, ultimately, he becomes just a portable sperm bank for the female.
4. Short-beaked echidna
Fortunately, not all males have it that rough. The short-beaked echidna survives mating. But his sex life is anything but ordinary. He’ll line up with around nine other males and follow a single female for up to a month during mating season. But here’s the interesting part. Females have a forked reproductive tract. But that doesn’t deter the males, because they have a 4-headed penis.
So during sex, the male alternates, swapping out spent pairs as each fires its semen. And that semen is supercharged. Hundreds of sperm glom together into bundles, which can swim faster than individual sperm, increasing their chance of fertilization. If that’s not impressive enough, his penis reaches nearly a quarter of his body length when erect.
But that’s nothing compared to a barnacle’s. That little crustacean has proportionally the longest penis of any animal on earth spanning up to 10 times his body size. That’s like a human’s reaching the length of a bowling lane. And the barnacle needs it because he can’t move around very easily. So he casts out his giant penis like a fishing line to find a mate. It waves about in the current, reaching to touch, and fertilize, the female organs of its neighbour.
Bee or barnacle, reproduction finds creative ways to continue on.