Sex and the Animal Kingdom

| 4/20/2009 8:47:25 AM

When parents talk about the birds and the bees, it’s usually a metaphor. When scientists talk about the sex lives of animals, the conversation tends to get interesting.

Researchers recently discovered that male chimpanzees give pieces of meat to females in exchange for sex, the BBC reports. For some time, scientists hypothesized about food-for-sex deals, but previous studies tended to look for short-term, payment-on-delivery exchanges. The researchers form the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany found that such exchanges can take place over time. Researcher Cristina Gomes told the BBC that males “might share meat with a female one day, and only copulate with her a day or two later.”

The researchers found that male chimpanzees who shared food with females were able to mate twice as often as the more selfish apes. Gomes thinks the findings could give clues into human evolution, and may provide a link between “good hunting skills and reproductive success.”

Similar food-for-sex exchanges have also been observed in flies. In fact, according to National Geographic, male flies have been known to cheat the system by presenting females with worthless gifts—wrapped up to look like food—to fool females into copulation. The strategy may work in the short-term, but the National Geographic reports: “the female dance flies that received the largest nutritious gifts copulated for a significantly longer amount of time than when given either a small nutritious gift or a larger worthless one.”

Though the strategies are similar, flies tend to be more indiscriminate about their sex lives than the chimpanzees. In Green Porno, Isabella Rossellini said flies “have sex several times a day: any opportunity, any female.”

To see Rossellini’s exploration into the sexual lives of flies, watch the video.

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