When asked to describe sex, courtship, or related concepts, romance, gratification, pleasure and other words that fall within this spectrum are what often come to mind- for most folks anyway. It is what society has raved about for ages; what biology teaches, and it is certainly what some have experienced first-hand. However, some animals would beg to differ. In their case, horror takes the place of romance, and agony takes the place of gratification. Sometimes, it all culminates in death. Below is a list of animals involved in some of the most horrific courtship behaviors and sexual acts.
The anglerfish is one morphologically unusual fish. For starters, It has a disproportionately large head fortified with weird dentition. It complements these features with a dangling luminous, fleshy structure attached to a stalk extending from the top of its head, between its eyes. The stalk is a derivative of the dorsal fin, called the illicium. The fleshy structure, on the other hand, is called the esca. The esca often resembles a worm or insect. The whole illicium-esca complex resembles a fishing rod. When lit up by bioluminescent bacteria and “swung” by the fish, the appendage is a potent bait. Unsuspecting prey is lured into the kill zone of the fish, where they are consumed. The fish derives its name from this bizarre hunting system. The illicium-esca complex is also used to attract mates in the deep dark waters of the ocean.
Its reproductive behavior is just as messed up as its looks. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
During mating season, the male anglerfish goes on a quest to find a female counterpart in the deep dark waters of the ocean. At such abyssal depths, finding a mate is not an easy task. What makes it even more difficult, especially in some species, is that these males often have a limited timeframe to do so. Why? They can’t remain viable on their own for long. If they don’t beat the deadline, they die. However, if such a male is successful, he latches on to the female’s body and fuses with her, literally. The female then slowly absorbs his body tissues, leaving the vestiges of his gonads. What makes it more messed up is that multiple attachments of males are not uncommon.
In the caste system of bees, there are three main groups, each with its role. They include the workers (sterile females that do most of the work), the drones (who are the fertile males), and the queen (who’s the “mother” of the hive, and the only fertile female at any point in time).
The only thing more horrific than a queen’s rise to power is the fate that befalls whichever drone bee that successfully mates with her.
After a new queen hatches, she destroys all the other eggs that can potentially hatch into other queens, killing the developing bees in the process. If there is another bee that hatched at the same time as hers, they’d have to fight to the death for the slot. Whatever the case may be, the last queen standing moves on to the next phase of her life journey- a copulatory flight, with a couple of drones.
Here is the catch- Any drone that successfully mates with her dies an unusual death.
After a dramatic ejaculation, its copulatory organ and abdomen are torn from its body as it tries to pull out. The remnants of his viscera remain in the queen. The queen, on the other hand, gets what she needs. This is a reservoir of sperm for her to reproduce whichever castle of bee is needed in the hive herself, at will. She returns to the hive, accomplished, and settles into her role of reproduction for the rest of her life.
If you think having your testicles torn off and your abdomen detached is bad enough, try this.
Life is hard enough as an insect. You are the potential snack of many insectivorous animals- the crawling ones, the hopping ones, the flying ones. You spend half your time foraging for food, hoping nature smiles at you and offers you your daily bread. The other, you spend, evading the big boys- which is not an easy task. However, with a lot of effort and a sprinkle of luck, you make it past the juvenile stage and become sexually mature.
On a fateful day, you latch on to a scent that is as irresistible as they come- even the scent of food has never been this appealing. You follow it till you discover the source- a beautiful sexually receptive female. You light up in glee and your thinking faculty is all jumbled up. One thing leads to another, and you find yourself doing the Lord’s work (I mean, you can’t really help it, can you?) However, in the frenzy of the moment, you fail to notice that she has your head clutched in between her powerful limbs. The last thing you remember is her eyeing your head hungrily. You think it’s all part of the whole deal, until she closes her mouth around your head, and bites it off.
(This isn’t exactly 100% accurate, but you get the point, don’t you?)
The praying mantis is an insect that gets its name from its default “praying” posture. It has powerful forelegs armed with “claws” used to capture its prey, which is usually other insects.
The female mantis during mating tends to bite the male’s head off and feed on it shortly after. This increases her reproductive capability and helps her lay more eggs. However, this unfortunate event isn’t always the norm. Some of the males manage to escape.
Those who survive the sexual escapade probably suffer from PTSD and hope they don’t land a murderous babe the next year, I guess…
The female black widow is another who often feels murderous when she’s in her season, so to say. People often assume that black widows always eat the male during mating season, but it’s not exactly true. They do turn their lovers into a sack of juice occasionally when they’re in the mood, but it’s not always the case.
This rodent-like marsupial happens to be the animal that mates the most frequently in the animal kingdom. No one even comes close. That’s not so bad, you say? It is. It is catastrophic. Here is why:-
During breeding seasons, the marsupial mice/pouched mouse (the male) mates to exhaustion. Irrecoverable exhaustion.
Juvenile marsupial mice, after sexual maturation, start to produce sperm for a stipulated period. However, unlike most other male animals, a time comes when it stops. They do not have the luxury of an inexhaustible repository of gametes. As soon as this happens, they go on a mating spree, doing their best to donate as much genetic material to the gene pool as they can.
They mate with as many females as they can find, within three weeks, often going at it for as long as 14 hours at a stretch each day. Before long, their bodies start to give out and their immune systems are severely compromised from the chronic stress they’ve subjected themselves to.
Their fur also begins to fall out… But they do not stop. Raging hormones drown out every other protective and cautionary body signal until the time window lapses and the frenzy stops. Then, severe exhaustion sets in, and death follows.