Friday, March 21, 2008

Animal Prostitutes?

In response the Eliot Spitzer scandal, Natalie Angier has a great piece in the New York Times about jealousy, cheating spouses and paying for sex in the animal kingdom this week. In it, she cites a University of Washington psychology professor as saying the only species that never strays is a kind of parasitic flatworm whose pair bonds fuse into one body and stay that way until death.
My favorite, though, was a study published in Animal Behavior by European researchers: The great grey male shrike gives his mate all sorts of edible gifts impaled on sticks. But when he wants to get it on with another female, he offers her even bigger gifts. The bigger the gift, the more likely she was to acquiesce.
As for jealousy, even insects seem to suffer from it. Angier writes about jealous female scarab beetles rolling their mates into balls of dung when they attempt to stray.


Flick said...

Ooh, I love information like this. Heard of the angler fish? Deep sea critters, very dark down there so doesn't matter that they are as ugly as sin. Males are tiny. When they meet the female, probably by chance it's so dark and let's face it, there's a lot you can get away with in the dark, anyway - they bite into her flesh and fuse with her body. Pause for shudder.
The blood supplies link and the male gets food and oxygen from the female. Ooh does this sound familiar, husband of mine who is currently still in bed at 9.20 AM demanding toast and coffee and er (censored material) ?

Well, back to the fish - more interesting. Because the male no longer needs most of its organs eg eyes and stomach, its body degenerates into a one track minded sperm machine. Ohh more in common with husband than I thought.
Females can have several of these male parasites attached all over her body. That bit doesn't sound so bad.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the parallels between wild and domesticated animals are often stunning, no? Sounds like angler fish males are probably largely practice fidelity, but at such a cost!