December 2, 2007 at 3:09 am #26504
note: Its always interesting to consider the sex habits of our animal cousins. Apparently only 3 species are truly monagomous, most of them screw around. Maybe its because they don’t have any clothes, so they don’t feel any sexual shame about acting out their naked impulses….:).
My own view is that humans are capable of having multi-dimensional sex, which allows for greater probability of their spiritual survival (immortality). Darwinism taken to a higher level….
THE SECRET RULES OF SEX: THE STRANGE WORLD OF ANIMAL PASSIONS
By Steve Connor
November 30, 2007
She is supposed to be coy and reserved when it comes to choosing a sexual
partner, whereas he is noted for being brazenly pushy, ready to offer his
services to any female that comes his way. Yet the normal sexual stereotypes
seem to be turned on their head in the case of the African topi, an antelope
where the male of the species likes to say “no”.
Zoologists have reported extraordinary behaviour during the courtship
rituals of the topi of the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya where some male
antelopes have literally had to fight off over-amorous females gagging to be
inseminated. Far from being standoff-ish, female topis have exhibited a
sexual predatoriness worthy of Russell Brand.
The topi antelope has a mating system based on an open arena of land where
the males gather to defend little territories called “leks” where each
individual advertises his sexual availability. Female topis show a distinct
preference to mate with the males with the most centrally-positioned lek,
and competing males fight over these territories the most.
So far, so stereotypical. But sometimes being a male with a central lek can
be an exhausting experience. So exhausting that they often find themselves
having to turn away familiar females in favour of unfamiliar individuals
visiting for the first time.
Jakob Bro-Jorgensen of the Zoological Society of London, who led the study
published in Current Biology, said it was extraordinary to see males
rejecting female advances so vehemently. It was as if male topis were in the
unusual position of having to ration their valuable sperm.
“I was interested to see that in cases where the male antelope was free to
choose between females, he deliberately went for the most novel mate, rather
than the most high ranking. However, some pushy females were so aggressive
in their pursuit of the male that he actually had physically to attack them
to rebuff their advances,” Dr Bro-Jorgensen said.
Trying to explain the latest skirmish in the battle of the sexes takes some
doing. It has long been established in biology that there is a fundamental
difference in the strategies of the two sexes. Males are supposed to
distribute their sperm far and wide to all comers, whereas females are noted
for being more picky over whom they decide to fertilise their precious eggs.
“When biologists talks about the ‘battle of the sexes’, they often tacitly
assume that the battle is between persistent males who always want to mate,
and females who don’t. However, in topi antelopes, where females are known
to prefer to mate with males in the centre of mating arenas, we’ve found a
reversal of these stereotypic sex roles,” said Dr Bro-Jorgensen.
When analysing sex strategies in the animal kingdom zoologists like to
invoke the notion of economic investment. Males invest little in each sperm
cell which is why sperm are small and exceptionally numerous.
Provided a male does not have to rear all the young he sires, it pays him to
distribute his investment far and wide in the hope that some of it will pay
off a bit like doing the lottery many times over.
Females, however, start out with a more substantial investment. Each of her
eggs is a relatively valuable commodity that needs to be carefully managed.
It would pay her, for instance, to invest even more in terms of time and
effort to ensure that her fertilised egg has a good chance of reaching
adulthood. This explain why females of so many different species stick
around to rear their young and why they have to be choosy over which male
they decide to mate with.
The lek system of mating is not unique to mammals such as topis. Leks are
common in birds especially. They are a useful way of letting females play
the field and choose the best male, who is usually the one with the most
centrally-located lek a word meaning “to play” in Swedish.
Like the topi, the males of some lek-mating birds, such as the capercaillie
grouse, have also been observed to reject females after a bout of
over-indulgence with a line of females. “They get shagged out. But the
females just go away and come back the next day,” said Professor Tim
Birkhead of Sheffield University.
So why doesn’t the topi female do the same? The answer seems to be because
she is only in oestrus for a day or so and cannot afford to risk being
barren for the entire breeding season, according to Dr Bro-Jorgensen. “The
females have just a single day to ensure that they become pregnant, and
preferably with a hotshot male, so they must focus all of their energies
into ensuring that males mate with them in that time,” he said. “The males,
however, must focus on maximising the potential of their sperm to ensure
they impregnate as many females as possible. It was not uncommon to see
males collapsing with exhaustion as the demands of the females got too much
for them,” he added.
The topi and the capercaillie exemplify a system of mating called polygyny,
where a male mates with more than one female. A lek system of mating is just
one expression of polygyny and is a supreme example of female choice they
are free to mate with any male, but are naturally attracted to those that
other females find attractive.
A harem system is another form of polygyny. Here males dominate their
females and guard them against the advances of other males examples range
from sea lions to gorrillas. Some polygynous species are also territorial,
where defending a resource-rich plot of land brings in females as an added
The other form of polygamy is polyandry, when a female has more than one
male as a mate. Although this is rare, it is not unheard of. One of the best
examples is the dunnock, or hedge sparrow, where females can have two
“husbands” at the same time to help rear their young.
Nick Davies, a zoologist at Cambridge University, has shown that this system
favours females because they can rear more young with two mates. The males
probably don’t like it much because they have to compete for access to the
female. Indeed, Dr Davies has shown that a male dunnock that is not allowed
frequent-enough access to his shared “wife” with not feed the resulting
Straight monogamy is more common, but even here it is not always what it
appears to be. Since DNA fingerprinting was invented some 20 years ago,
biologists have discovered that supposedly monogamous species engage in
sneaky extra-marital sex or what is termed extra-pair copulations.
DNA studies of offspring have shown that socially monogamous birds ranging
from blue tits to albatrosses are not sexually monogamous. Both males and
females go for “extra-marital” sex. Only a few species, such as the mute
swan, the capricorn silvereye (a songbird) and the California mouse, are
truly monogamous both socially and sexually, Professor Birkhead said.
Which only goes to show, that everything is not what it often seems,
especially when it comes to the sexual games animals play. As Dr
Bro-Jorgensen said: “We should not regard coyness as the only natural female
sex role just as we should not expect that it is always the natural male sex
role to mindlessly accept any mating partner. Nature favours a broader range
of sex roles.” Tell that to Russell Brand.
Some animals do not conform to any mating system and engage in frequent sex
with many partners. The most famous example is the pygmy chimp, or bonobo,
where both sexes copulate frequently to ease social tensions within the
group. Other promiscuous species include the buffalo weaver and the vasa
parrot of Madagascar, whose females mate with a number of males which she
attracts by singing at the top of a tree. She benefits by rearing a clutch
of chicks with different fathers and so with a wider genetic variation.
Few species are truly monogamous, but mute swans not only mate for life,
they are sexually faithful. Both sexes help to rear their young and the male
can be assured that the offspring are his, and not those of another male.
Monogamy is an advantage when both parents are needed to rear a brood.
Socially monogamous, ie, they act as if they are involved in an exclusive
pair bond, but genetic testing shows that often the offspring are the result
of “extra-marital” sex. Females as well as males engage in this form of
Occasionally there is a complete role reversal in nature when it comes to
the sexes. In an extreme form of male monogamy, the male sea horse gets
“pregnant” when the female’s eggs are embedded in him. He fertilises them
and gives birth to live young.
This species of antelope uses a “lek” system of polygynous mating, where
males compete with one another in an open arena with the best, most
attractive male occupying territories, or leks, at the centre of the arena.
The males with the most centrally-placed leks are viewed as the most
sexually attractive and can soon get exhausted by libidinous females.
Biologists have observed that these males often turn down mating
opportunities, which is rare in the animal kingdom.
Another form of polygyny is the harem system of mating. Here a dominant male
defends his females against the attentions of other males. He has to fight
his way to this position and has to keep fighting to retain it. The
reproductive benefits of winning and the costs of losing are immense,
which is why the fights can be vicious.
Practises polyandry, ie, the female has more than one mate. The female
dunnock often has two “husbands” in a ménage à trois that favours her more
than the males. She can ear more offspring this way, but the trade-off is
that she had to treat her male companions fairly.
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