Weird Animal Courtships II.

Snake Balls- Garter snakes.
…A “ball” of frenzied desire
Most courtship behaviors have their share of flair and extravagance, but the idea of being cooped up in a ball of many snakes dripping with frenzied desire is as unusual as they come.

Garter snakes are known to form mating balls during mating season. Also known as snake balls, they are made up of a single female and a fair number of males. It is not unusual for these males to number up to a hundred individuals. However, just one male gets to fertilize the female at the end of the day- whoever gets access to the cloaca amidst the pandemonium.
It is not unusual for females to die in the process. Known as the “kiss”, females may be deprived of oxygen due to the exhalation of deoxygenated air by males, especially large ones, in the ball.

In addition, some male garter snakes can be sneaky before mating. They can secrete male and female pheromones. This helps them to cloak their true selves near female dens and to attract other males in a bid to steal heat after hibernation, before mating. The heat they steal warms them up and gears them up for the task ahead.

Apparently, the ball doesn’t seem to have any significant purpose. Just a bunch of rowdy male snakes fighting unnecessarily over a female, because their brains have been tinkered by maddening lust.

Don’t they know when to call it quits? Can’t they just slug it out as ‘men’? Or have they not considered the possibility of snuffing the life of the female in the process?” My thoughts too.

Love Darts- Snails:
Your most familiar mollusk friends, snails, sure put on weird courtship behaviors during mating season. Snails are hermaphroditic, meaning either two snails can be male or female in the mating process.

In the latter stages of an elaborate courtship, one of the snails fires a mucus-coated dart at the head of the other. These darts are ‘released’ and remain hanging on the other. In some other scenarios, it is just a repeated stabbing of sorts, with an un-detachable dart.

These darts seldom pierce through and through while remaining hanging in some cases. They also lie close to internal organs in some other cases. These darts confer a boost in sperm reception before fertilization. In other words, the stabbed usually becomes the female in the copulation process.

That is weird if you think about it.
Studies have shown that these darts pose harm to the snails. In the long run, they reduce fertility and shorten the lifespan of snails, which makes the phenomenon all the more disturbing.
It is worthy of note that the use of love darts is found in slugs as well.

“Shit show”-Hippos:
Hippos are polygamous animals. A dominant male has exclusive rights to mate with all the females in its harem and territory. During mating season, other males challenge them for the position, fueled by raging hormones. The volatility of males in this period often causes injuries among the contenders, but that isn’t so unusual in the animal kingdom. A couple of big boys slugging it out over a damsel isn’t an unusual sight in the animal kingdom.

Rather, what is really weird is their unorthodox idea of romance.
In a world where males seduce females with the most ostentatious of displays, intricate dance moves, and costly, attractive gifts, hippos stand out-and not exactly in a good way.
During mating season, the male hippo makes its advances on the females with its feces and urine. Yeah, feces. You read right.
A male defecates and urinates into the water and spreads it, with its tail. This weird courtship behavior has been shown to persist for up to three days in some cases.
A sexually receptive female often tags along by baring her rear and releasing her poop in response. A prelude to the actual mating.
It is a literal shit-show, folks.

Puffed necks- Sage grouse:
The courtship of the sage grouse is often quite the sight.
During mating season, male sage grouses strut about in their numbers, with a dramatic swagger. In this period, their most obvious feature is their white ballooned necks, which they persistently flaunt around females. These necks appear so due to the filling of their neck sacs with air. In the process, they also give off popping sounds. Females select their males of choice, and most of the time, their choices tend to converge on the dominant one or two of the lot.
It is worthy of note that the sage grouse inhabit grasslands interspersed with sagebrush.

Pebble Gifts- Penguins:
Penguins: Penguins are flightless birds that live along coastal regions and the Antarctic. A male penguin makes advances on the female by offering her a round pebble. If she is pleased, she accepts and it is the start of a blooming relationship.
However, if the male stays away for too long and/or another suitor makes his move with a better pebble, there is a propensity of the female to go with the latter. Some have labeled them “promiscuous” in that sense.

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