1. Flatworms: En garde!
Flatworms are seaborne hermaphrodites who can play either the male or female role in reproduction. When two flatworms meet, they extend sharp two-headed ᴘᴇɴɪsᴇs and try to sᴛᴀʙ each other with them and ɪɴᴊᴇᴄᴛ the other with sᴘᴇʀᴍ. Getting pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean losing though. In many species, “fathers” continue to “fence” with other individuals until they are ɪɴsᴇᴍɪɴᴀᴛᴇᴅ too.
2. Puffer fish: Underwater s.ᴇ .x lairs
A small species of puffer fish will spend seven to nine days making large ornate circle patterns on the seafloor which they decorate with shell fragments. The males flap their fins and swim around creating circles of near 2 m in diameter, even though they’re only 12 cm long. Females come to examine the finished circles and decide whether they’d like to ᴍᴀᴛe with their makers. Although they’re sure the circles are important in ᴍᴀᴛing, scientists are still unsure exactly what female pufferfish look for in an underwater s.ᴇ .x lair.
3. Bees: Ride and ᴅɪᴇ
When a drone bee has the rare chance to ᴍᴀᴛe with the queen, it’s the last thing he does. He ᴇᴊᴀᴄᴜʟᴀᴛᴇs with an explosive pop, ʀᴜᴘᴛᴜʀing his endophallus. He becomes paralyzed and flips over backward. His barbed endophallus remains in the queen, ʀɪᴘping open his abdomen as it’s torn from the rest of his body. He ᴅɪᴇs. She holds onto his sᴇᴍᴇɴ for later use.
4. Porcupines: Let it rain
The porcupine ᴍᴀᴛing window is small: females are open to it for only about 8-12 hours per year. But when it rains, it pours. The male porcupine opens by climbing a tree and soaking the female with ᴜʀɪɴᴇ from up to seven feet away. If she likes how it smells, then she will ᴍᴀᴛe with him over and over again until he’s completely exhausted. The 12-hour ᴍᴀᴛing period is enough to get the female pregnant 90 per cent of the time.
5. Adelie penguins: Girl’s best friend
Male Adelie penguins scour the rocky beaches that they live on for smooth shiny pebbles that they can bring as a gift to woo females. If the female likes the gift, she’ll use it to line her nest, ᴍᴀᴛe with the male and the two will continue building up a pebble nest to hold any eventual eggs. However, this is not an exclusive pair bond. Females will still ᴍᴀᴛe with other males who show up with the right stone.
6. Albatrosses: “I’ll always come back to you”
Albatrosses like to travel. They’re migratory birds who can spend years at sea without ever touching down on land. But when they do come home to the Galapagos Islands for ᴍᴀᴛing season, they always come back to their lifelong partner. The pair greet each other with an intricate 20-minute ᴍᴀᴛing dance. When an albatross couple does breed, the parents will feed the hatchling for nearly a year until it is ready to set off on its own for four or five years without returning.
7. Bowerbirds: The illusionists
Bowerbirds, native to Northern Australia, are architectural-illusionists. To attract females, they don’t just dance or flash their feathers. They build a twig structure called a “bower,” which they decorate with ʙᴏɴᴇs, man-made objects and stones (the “court”). When a potential ᴍᴀᴛe arrives, the male stands in the court by the bower’s exit and shows her the colourful objects he’s collected. The illusion? The objects are arranged with the larger objects ꜰᴀʀᴛher away from the bower. From where she’s standing, this makes him look larger than he actually is.
8. Angler Fish: The clingy boyfriend
Angler fish ᴍᴀᴛing begins when the male angler fish literally sinks his teeth into the female. He attaches himself permanently and lives as a parasite on the female’s larger body. However, as their boᴅɪᴇs fuse, the male becomes completely absorbed into the female, losing any independent existence. All that remains are a pair of ɢᴏɴᴀᴅs, which the female keeps to use when she’s ready to reproduce.
9. Garter snake: Party on the Prairies
Narcisse, Manitoba is home to the largest annual gathering of snakes in the world, and it’s an orgy. Every spring, the males emerge first from their underground lairs. When a larger female turns up, the males form into a giant ᴍᴀᴛing ball in which a single female is surrounded by up to 100 males who all try to ᴍᴀᴛe with her at the same time. Male garter snakes have also been known to produce female pheromones in order to fool other males into trying to ᴍᴀᴛe with them.
10. Marsupial mice: Here for a good time, not a long time
Puberty hits hard for the males of these tiny Australian marsupials. When they reach s.ᴇ .xual ᴍᴀᴛurity, their ᴛᴇsᴛᴇs disintegrate and the clock starts ticking on a short but frenzied ᴍᴀᴛing period. Nature gives them just a few weeks to use the sᴘᴇʀᴍ they’ve accumulated to ensure their posterity before they ᴅɪᴇ.
The boys skip sleep and run around frantically looking for ᴍᴀᴛing opportunities, while their fur falls out and they develop ᴜʟᴄᴇʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴs and ɢᴀɴɢʀᴇɴᴇ. Although you might expect the males to ғɪɢʜᴛ during this desperate bid to reproduce, they’re actually quite friendly with each other.