Sunday, January 16, 2022

Animal Reproduction: 5 Weird Ways It Happens

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Aryaman Majumdar
A Neuropsychology and Computer Science major who currently seeks to advance neuroprosthetic and machine learning R&D. He also sporadically writes silly things, usually for blogs, online publications and his naively abstruse YouTube channel. Long-term goals: 1) Neuroprosthetic R&D in India 2) Eliminating poverty in India 3) AI development

Nature is scary. That’s a fact. Yet, we have the solace of knowing that once in a blue moon, everyone takes some time off running to engage in the bliss of sex. Right?
We’re here to tell you that animals are weird and animal reproduction is very weird. Every so often, it gets just as bloody as murder.

Remember how we learnt about animal reproduction in biology? Well, let’s go ahead.

1. Parthenogenesis – Animal Reproduction

Sometimes, animals don’t need mates to reproduce. Komodo dragons and mole salamanders have been observed to perform mateless reproduction aka parthenogenesis aka virgin birth.

Normal reproduction involves a male sperm gamete and a female egg gamete to fuse, so the resulting cell has information from both gametes. In parthenogenesis, the female egg gamete forms with all the required information from the mother, and so grows without the use of sperm. Scientific proof of Jesus?

Well, parthenogenesis has never been seen in humans. It has been seen in sharks though, so we know one thing. Shark Jesus was, in fact, real.


2. Hermaphroditism – Animal Reproduction

In some species of snails and fish, individuals often switch sexes in their lifespans. Some begin as males and turn into females, and others, vice versa.

Yet others produce both male and female gametes. These animals reproduce with either sex. For example, in clownfish, if the dominant female dies, the dominant male turns female and mates with another male.

Convenient, huh?

3. Parasites – Animal Reproduction

A parasitic wasp from Costa Rica, Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga, stings spiders and paralyzes them for around 20 minutes. Within that short time, the wasp stings the spider and lays its eggs inside it.

Around two weeks later, the wasp larva bursts out of the spider, kind of like this:

After that, the wasp larva releases a kind of chemical that causes that spider to spin a web. Finally, the larva kills the spider and uses this web as its own cocoon.

As we can see, it isn’t always the sex part of reproduction that’s messed up. What happens afterwards can be equally disturbing, if not more.

4. Male Pregnancy –  Animal Reproduction

Although this is observed in more than one species, the seahorse is probably the most well-known. In seahorses, the male and the female perform a dance ritual, following which the female lays its eggs in the male’s pouch. Later, the male contracts its muscles and out pop the babies.

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash- Animal Reproduction

5. Penis Sword Fights – Animal Reproduction

Flatworms are hermaphroditic, which means each flatworm has both male and female reproductive systems. Hermaphroditism isn’t new, as we’ve seen in the first entry of this article. What makes flatworms special is how they use their hermaphroditism.

Two flatworms use their sword-like penises to fight. The fight lasts up to an hour or more. It ends when one flatworm uses its penis to stab and inseminate the other one. One thus mothers the zygotes, while the other roams in search of other flatworms to inseminate.

There we have it. Five curious, and in our opinion, terrifying ways in which animals reproduce. Sleep well!


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