Nature's Most Extreme Dads
Our human world is crazy and has a lot of different ideas on what it is to be a dad in society. Not only this, but sexuality itself sometimes finds itself mired in these parental politics. Here I wanted to write the first of several articles on what the animal world thinks about all this. Is homosexuality a sin? Are single dads doomed to fail? What about gender bending? I hope you enjoy as I take you through this virtual zoo of extreme fathers.
I’ll start my article with an animal most people know, the sea horse. I’m starting with him because he’s one of the most bizarre dads on the planet. First of all he’s monogamous and second of all, he’s the one that wears the maternity clothes in the family. I’m told by scientists studying these creatures that pregnancy is not the right term but I fail to see a difference. Basically when a sea horse falls in love he’ll do a stunning thing for his one and only girl; he’ll offer to carry her babies, up to 1,000 of them at a time! When she’s feeling frisky she’ll come over to him and literally lay eggs into a pouch he possesses where they will be fertilized and grow into itty bitty sea horses. During this time his belly will swell up just like a human mother and when the time comes he’ll push them all out.
Couch Potato Dads
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the deadbeat dads who are more or less just breathing sperm banks. There are a lot of animals like this but a few have a more interesting take on the bachelor life. Angler fish are a deep sea fish that live in a habitat so vast that they might not see another angler fish for the entirety of their existence. This provides a challenge as far as making more angler fish is concerned, but not to fear male angler fish have the answer! Suppose a male angler fish does see a female angler fish, who by all means will look like Godzilla to him as females grow up to ten times larger than the males. He’s all ready to rumble but she doesn’t even seem to see him. Such is life, right? Not really as the male has a trick! He’ll bite the female and hang onto her as she swims through the water. Eventually he will bite her so long that his mouth will weld to her side, she’ll grow her own skin over him, and with time he literally just becomes a floating half-alive sperm sack at her side, should she someday choose to use it.
Other leeching fathers are a bit more social. Ants, bees, and wasps for example breed drones. Drones hang out in large groups like drunken frat boys doing absolutely nothing except eating the colony’s food and possibly insulting a few lady workers. Eventually they’ll get annoyed with this, push the drones out of the colony, and refuse to let them back in. That’s when the bee drones start their kamikaze breeding ritual with the queen. Basically they’ll fly high into the skies with her, mate with her, and then as they pull away they will leave their genitalia with her. And since they have recently been gutted in this manner they will then fall to the earth and die.
These next few animals could easily make a mockery of Tantric sex manuals. The first is a charming little marsupial mouse from Australia called an antechinus. These males are extreme lovers. Once they’ve courted a lady friend they will spend up to twelve hours repeatedly breeding her until they die of dehydration or just pure exhaustion. Llamas can spend up to two hours in one copulation, waiting for their “dribble ejaculation” to finish. This is much to the consternation of farmers who can’t easily collect llama seamen for sale like they can in horses and cows. Polar bears spend two weeks following around their lady friends during their honeymoon period. Golden Eagles on the other hand like a walloping dose of crazy. They fly their lady friends as high into the air as they can and mate while plunging 70 miles an hour towards the ground. If they fail at this they turn into eagle pancakes.
We can’t really talk about male sex without talking about their equipment, now can we? Let’s just say that some male animals are exceptionally blessed while others might not be so much. Barnacles have the longest penis to body length ratio. Their penis is inflatable and can reach 50 times the length of its actual body. This was a breeding strategy adopted by an animal that lives its entire life fixed in one position, perhaps only an inch away from that lovely girl barnacle it was eying. Male fruit flies of the species Drosophila bifurca have the unusual distinction of the world’s longest sperm which measure two inches long. That’s 1,000 times longer than a human sperm, and more than twenty times the length of its full body. Not surprisingly his testicles take up 11% of his entire body mass. And speaking of testicles, the common Norway rat has the largest testicles of any mammal in comparison with body length. I used to breed these guys as pets and let me tell you their goolies are impressive, often one testicle being larger than the animal’s head. I used to get people asking me if my boys had tumors. This is so they can breed on a continuous basis with any female that moves. However they aren't the largest testicles ever recorded, those go to Brush Crickets which have testicles that account for 14% of their total body weight. On the other hand Argentine Lake Ducks have the longest penis of any bird. In fact most birds don’t have any penises at all, breeding instead by ‘kissing’ genital openings. However this duck thought it was handy to have a penis that was so long it could use it to lasso a female. It’s a cork-screw shaped organ that measures slightly longer than the duck’s body size. Fwew. I don’t think I’d stick around if I saw that coming at me! And if that isn't weird enough there are animals for which one is not a sufficient number. Many snakes have two penises just in case their lady friend takes offense and decides to leave in the middle of their date, ripping off one penis in the process. However snakes don't even hold a candle to the echidna. Female echidnas often get the limelight for being one of only two species of mammals that lay eggs but the male echidna has his secrets too. He is the world record keeper for having the penis with the largest amount of heads. He doesn't have one, two, or even three heads but four! It almost looks like a stubby hand. Why do he have such a strange organ? No one knows.
Most Underwelming Lovers
Giant Pandas make for such underwhelming lovers that breeding them can be an almost impossible task. Both male and female pandas don’t seem to have a clue what sex is and zookeepers desperate for babies have even resorted to letting them watch panda porn to get the idea. Porcupines on the other hand woo their lovers-to-be by waddling up to them and then covering them in a torrential stream of urine. This brings new meaning to the term pissing contest. If a female is impressed she’ll present her belly and he’ll have to very cautiously brush aside and stray spines. Hippos have much the same view on what’s considered sexy except instead of urine they would rather splat poo all over their love interest.
The Argonaut, a tiny species related to an octopus has to be the most hands-off lover I have ever come across. Males have one arm that’s longer than the rest that serves the same function a penis would. The only weird thing about this is that it’s detachable and really does have a mind of its own! You see if the male can’t get close enough to place it inside his woman’s head cavity he’ll just pull it off and let it swim by itself to her. This behavior is so weird that when it was first observed in the 1800’s it was thought to have been a parasitic worm, not a penis.Ouch, that’s got to hurt the ego.
Most Underwelming Genitalia
Male silver back gorillas are really quite sad creatures in one regard, what they’re hiding under their ape speedos. Though they can weigh more than 400 pounds they sport a penis that only measure one and a half inches. And if that’s disappointing than so are their testicles which match their penises in notability. They have the smallest male reproductive organs of any primate.
Push Over Dads
Recently scientists discovered what could be the most unusual dad on the planet. He comes in the form of a Brazilian bug, called a Neotrogla. He carries the eyebrow raising distinction of being the only dad on the planet to possess a vagina. if you're squeamish to use the big V word you can also say "simple tube-like structure." It's OK. The females of the species are the more aggressive sex. Once they've cornered the male of their chosing they use their inflated spiked penis to anchor themselves to their reluctant mate for up to 70 hours, at which point they steal the male's sperm as well a "nutrient packet" mixed in. This comes in handy when you live in a cave with sparse feeding possibilities but can leave the male rather destitute after her departure. There's little romance in the life of these flea sized insects.
Date Rape Dads
So we’ve talked about the great lovers, the pathetic lovers, but what about the violent ones? Garter snakes have the most frat boy-like love life. They all hibernate underground in the winter and when spring comes around they come out of their dens where large females are immediately mobbed by up to ten or more smaller males who form a “mating ball” around her. The struggle is so wormy and intense that each male snake is equipped with not one but two penises, just in case she wriggles away with his first one during the frenzy.
If you think that’s harsh a looking into the love life of straw itch mites might shock you. Males are born sexually mature and immediately set about mating with their mother and sisters, even before finding food.
Banana slugs on the other hand like to take a walk on the wild side. You see all banana slugs are hermaphroditic, meaning they possess the reproductive organs of both males and females. When they get together to do the horizontal tango they start by penetrating each other with their penises and then if one gets bored or wants to go do something else it might actually gnaw off its partner’s penis. Meanwhile if one or both or left with full erections after mating it might gnaw off its own penis. Now that’s a cure to priapism that I haven’t heard recommended often!
Marine flatworms as just as weird. They’re also hermaphroditic but in a competitive sort of way. You see it takes a lot of energy and resources to successfully carry a baby or more babies through pregnancy. Flat worms know this and they don’t want to get pregnant but they do want to mate so they take their sharp sword-like penises and engage in “penis fencing.” The winner is the one who can stab their mate and inject them with sperm first. Sometimes both worms get stabbed and get pregnant.
Not many people know that our beloved household pets can be a little rough when it comes to their love lives. Dogs, and other species of canids, get “tied” after they mate, meaning the male more or less gets stuck in the female for awhile. This is so no other male dog can knock her up while she’s in the mood. They can remain tied for anywhere between ten minutes to over an hour, depending of course on the male. If that’s not bad enough a closer look at cats will reveal they’re even more painful lovers. Female cats must copulate at least 4 times in a short span of time in order for pregnancy to become a viable option. This probably wouldn’t be so bad except that the male’s penis actually comes with a sharp hook at the end of it which scratches and cuts up the vaginal walls, giving a signal to the kitty's other reproductive organs that it's time to toss some eggs into the mix. Anyone who has seen a cat bred knows that females give a seriously pissed call during this and that would be why!
The animal kingdom is full of lonely male animals with a lot of flash. Just look at birds. Many birds are sexually dimorphic (which means each sex looks different) and this usually means the males are much prettier, like a peacock. We all know this and there’s nothing particularly interesting about it, or is there? Some birds like to step it up a notch. Male Blue Bower Birds for example will make a little love tunnel for their lady friends out of normal nesting materials. But what attracts the women better than just a boring old grass tunnel is a boring old grass tunnel covered in bling. These birds will fly around in search of anything blue and decorate their little love nests like a garish Christmas display. In the old days they’d collect berries and pebbles but now with blue bottle caps, blue rope and yarn, and various other blue trash the bower bird finds himself a man of wealth. And hey if bling isn’t your thing how about a little dancing? Try being a bird of paradise! They really can put on the moves!
Gender Bending Dads
If you think only male animals can be dads well you might be almost right but the truth is there are hundreds of species of reef fish that are fond of sex changes. Clown fish are usually found in monogamous pairs but they’re not male female pairs, they are always male male pairs, and then whoever ends up being the more dominant will end up changing its sex to female in a process called protogeny, so the couple can reproduce. Interesting enough they will only have sons, until some of them decide to be daughters someday. In other fish species like the blue streaked cleaner wrasse, whole schools of fish will be female until the most dominant starts to morph into a male. If the male dies then the second most dominant female will become male, in a process called protandry. Some species can switch back and forth numerous times in their life, while others have a one sex change limit.
So we’ve covered a lot of the aspects of sexuality, lets now take a glimpse at child rearing with some of the world’s most hands-on dads. American Bullfrogs have to be some of the ultimate single dads out there. When a female lays her eggs he’ll fertilize them by spraying them with his sperm before putting them in his mouth where they will eventually develop and hatch. Once the little ones are wriggling around he will then release them into a nursery pool he has dug for them. If the nursery pool dries up he’ll actually dig a channel to another one or into the pond at large.
Male Japanese Water Bugs have a different answer to child care. They allow their females to attach their eggs to his back where they spend their youths piggyback riding on their father’s shell. Many fish species have a similar trick. Male sea catfish will let their babies develop inside their mouths until they hatch, sustaining from eating for up to six weeks. Male beta fish, the very same colorful fish you see at the pet store, make bubble nests for their young and protect the nest fiercely long after the female has left. Male Darwin frogs opt for the mouth nursery but since they have a pocket to the side of their mouth for this task they can still eat. This means their little tadpole offspring can stay lodged in there until they lose their tails and become tiny frogs. Wolf fathers will guard the den their pups are born in and will also go out on hunting missions to feed both the pups and his mate until they are old enough to start toddling out of the den. Not to be outdone the Namaqua Sand Grouse will fly up to 50 miles a day to soak his feathers in water which he’ll then bring back to his desert borne offspring to drink.
Stay at Home Dads
Female Northern Jacana birds think that one mate is lovely but they’re happier with three or four. Male Jacanas are just happy to get the tiniest bit of affection. They build nests which their lady lover will lay eggs in and once she does she’ll fly off to her next lover leaving her guy behind to do 100% of the child rearing. Rheas have it a bit worse. Their breeding tactic is much the same except they keep multiple female lovers and when their mate lays her eggs in the nest he’s built they’re usually the product of the last male she was with, not the current one. Nonetheless he’ll protect the nest fiercely even from other females until the chicks are ready to make it on their own.
I have spent a lot of time researching and writing this article but because someone has deemed some of the words used in it as vulgar I will not be paid for it. I have found this a poor reason to take it down so instead I have left it up for the world to enjoy for free. If you found it interesting please leave me some love in the comments section or check out some of my less risque articles.