An endless kiss
When biologists started to capture and study the first anglers, or Ceratiidae, a family of deep-sea fishes that can survive up to a maximum depth of 4500 metres, they came across a peculiar puzzle: only female specimens could be found and many of them suffering from a form of parasitosis (many much smaller fishes were often found clinging to their body). But no trace was detected of Ceratiidae’s male specimens.
Further research quickly led to a rather surprising discovery: the small parasite fishes clinging to the female’s flesh were precisely those male specimens that biologists had long been looking for. This noticeable sexual dimorphism (namely the completely different appearance of the male and female belonging to the same species) had fooled scientists.
The details of the strange reproductive cycle of these fishes gradually came to light.
For Ceratiidae’s male specimens, life is certainly not a bed of roses. They are extremely small, helpless, and most of the time they are not even able to feed themselves: their mouth is unsuited for any kind of predation and their alimentary canal never develops. The only thing they can do is to smell, in the dark of the abyss, fighting against time in the hope to suddenly catch the fragrance of a female’s pheromones. If they don’t find her in time, they die.
When they manage to locate her instead, they quickly place on her body the kiss that will join them forever: once he has bitten the female, the male secretes an enzyme that digests the flesh of both, melting the male’s lips together with the female’s skin. In so doing – and there’s no other way – the male Ceratiidae will be able to survive, attached to the circulatory system of his partner that guarantees him enough nourishment. In return, he offers her his semen.
Even after he has reached this excellent status of everlasting coupling, our hero must not be too jealous: as many as eight males can cling to the same female specimen at the same time, so as to guarantee her a continuous supply of semen available anytime she is ready to ovulate.
As if there weren’t enough peculiarities, some of these males can eventually become completely atrophied until only their testicles remain visible.
Obviously this bizarre little extended family survives as long as the female is alive.
Is there anything more excruciating than a mother that will never be able to kiss her new-born baby?
This question does not make sense, if you happen to belong to the kind of mites called Adactylidium. On the contrary, pray not to be in the place of a pregnant female of this species of arachnids.
The delivery of the Adactylidia would be perfect in a horror movie. The pregnant female clings to an ant’s egg, her only means of sustenance during gestation. She can produce a maximum of nine eggs, all containing female specimens but one, which will give birth to the only male. The hatching directly takes place in the mother’s womb: the newborn mites not only feed on their mother’s flesh, but go as far as to copulate inside her body. The male fecundates all his sisters, and in turn they pierce their mother’s shell, and are born – already pregnant. Each one therefore goes in search for an egg where she will die within four days, giving birth to a new brood.
The male also comes out of his mother’s body but he has already done the only thing for which he was needed. He drags around for a few hours, then dies.
An exclusive passion
It is well known that animals, in general, don’t have scruples about adultery.
Nevertheless water voles – small rodents that live in prairies – practise the most strict and undisputed monogamy. In the couples that form, the male specimen is very jealous and sticks fast to his partner, biting anyone who gets too close to her; in her turn, she does not move a step away from him. Their relationship is exclusive, based on continuous cuddles and intimacy.
As long as they were single, though, the two little mice appeared to be “companionable”, namely their behaviour towards their fellow creatures was completely different. What happened that thoroughly changed their life style?
According to scholars, everything must be ascribed to the first unrestrained wedding night. When the two water voles couple for the first time, they actually go wild in a sex marathon which is unique in the animal kingdom: their coitus can last up to forty hours without interruption!
According to some biologists of Maryland University, this blow-out of scorching passion finally makes them fall inside a biologic trap from which they will never get out: in both the male and the female the lengthy intercourse provokes a shift of hormones in the hypophysis, and from that moment onwards oxytocin is always kept high by their effusiveness, whereas vasopressin makes male specimens aggressive towards their fellow creatures.
Nevertheless, we must say that “extreme” sex is so crucial to water voles only at the beginning of their relationship. After a while, copulation becomes quicker, something like a task to perform in a jiffy. Does it sound familiar to you?