Its said that there are four ‘F’s in life; feeding, fighting, fleeing and….fornicating. These behaviours are displayed in all walks (and forms) of life; from the humble earthworm to the gargantuan sperm whale. Us humans have evolved over the ages to use our inherent ‘wiseness’ and physical dexterity over other animals, to become the masters of our planet, but we remain evolved monkeys at heart, with the same primal ‘F’s hardwired into our physiology. However, since the 4th ‘F’ in humans has already taken up the majority of the volume you are currently holding, its probably time for our big wide world roomates to have the attention for once. Below are weird and wonderful facts on sex and relationships in the animal kingdom.
#1 – Whiptail lizards:
The amazing thing about the primal reproductive behaviours that are ingrained in most animals is that they are flexible: they can actually adapt to the changing environment, despite having gender-specific origins. Take the whiptail lizards, which are descended from bi-sexual ancestors but are now a unisexual species, in that all the individuals are female. They – in place of “classic” sex – reproduce by pathenogenesis, which does not involve any exchange of genetic material. Despite this, these lizards still display courtship behaviour like that seen in humans; one will act as a ‘male’ and go (ahem) on top and mount their ‘female’ partner. This activity can actually stimulate embryo development into eggs, despite there being no fertilisation taking place whatsoever. All this is regulated by hormones released in the lizard brains, with different hormones corresponding to different ‘gender’ behaviour stereotypes.
#2 – Japanese macaques:
During the winter mating season for Japanese macaques, there is fierce competition between males for females to partner up with. However, the male macaques can also find themselves fighting against other females to mate; this is one of many examples in the animal kingdom where homosexual behaviour is the norm. Female-female partnerships startlingly resemble heterosexual ones; the pairings last for about a week and when they’re not ‘together’ together, they still remain close, grooming and sleeping with each other while defending against any potential rivals.
#3 – Dolphins:
Dolphins always seem to be having fun, and they know it too; they have a similar neurological architecture to humans, and have been observed to play, make their own art and even give each other names! They are also, it seems, masters of polygamy. They live in fission-fusion social arrangements, meaning that they can come and go between partnerships as they please with no questions asked. As such, their attitudes to sex are liberal even by human standards; they exchange partners at will and can also engage in orgies.
#4 – Bonobos:
If there is actually a living, breathing paragon of the ‘make love, not war’ motto, you can probably find it manifested in bonobos. The closest extant animal relatives to humans, bonobos have sex whenever and for whatever reasons they can; for greetings, to try and prevent conflict, to make up after conflicts, as a way for matriarchs to exert control over uncooperative males and, of course, why the f*** not? They spice it up too; pairs have been observed French kissing and even engaging in oral sex. Homosexuality is also widely seen in both genders, there is no age discrimination and they refrain from monogamous relationships. Its no wonder that with so much love, bonobos are the most peaceful primate on the planet.
I think I’ll stop here; it makes for depressing writing when a f***ing ape probably has a better love life than you. On the plus side, Lonesome George was the last Pinta Island tortoise who was quite a happy celibate (to the dismay of conservationists). At least it’s not a rare thing.