Animals too fight for their females
Posted on: 31 Oct 2012
If it is one book that should be read for knowledge of the other beings on this planet and how amazingly similar they are to humans, it is Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson. It was sent to me by a professor from Canada. The book is delicious, warm, funny and informative. I have never recommended a book as highly as I do this one.Here are some things I learn from it about our fascinating world.Are human males the only ones that fight over their girls? It seems that most species have females who flirt, males who fight. But do girls like fighting? Are they really keen on the Salman Khan type of personality who thinks with his fists and feet and attracts all the women after he finishes pulverizing any rival males? Do they actually encourage fights in order to watch the action? I'm afraid so. Take a termite who lives in rotting wood: males and females live as couples in a nest. But if the female gets bored she will invite a new male into the nest and the two males will obviously start fighting. In between the fighting bouts, the female will first caress one then the other, until the loser either dies or slinks away. Female cheetahs do not encourage males fighting, but it has a powerful effect on them to watch the fight: they come into heat almost immediately in order to mate with the winner.
If a young bull elephant tries to mate a female, she will actually bellow for older bulls to come and drive away the young one so that she can watch a good fight. Komodo dragons, who are the largest lizards, fight over females by trying to catch each other's hind limbs, with the loser eventually being pinned to the ground. These males vomit or defecate on each other. The winner of the fight flicks his long tongue at the watching female to get her to come with him – and she does. Elephant seals fight so viciously over their women that each surviving male carries scars. Bleeding and wounded, they mate their ladies after the fight is over. One would think that the female would feel sorry for him. But should a male elephant seal try and mate with the lady he fancies, she makes such a noise that every other male comes running and the fights start. Once married, is the female faithful to her mate? The law of nature is generally thought that males are promiscuous and females chaste? Unfortunately that is as much of a myth in the animal kingdom as it is in the human one.
Given half a chance the female will philander as well. Splendid Fairy Wren couple live together and rear children together but the wife has a lover as well as the husband. The Idaho Ground Squirrel male knows his wife will stray given an opportunity, so he follows her everywhere and picks fights with any male who looks her way. The Blue Milkweed beetle husband in fact rides on his wife's back so that he can stop her from gallivanting. Black-capped chickadees live in flocks where everyone is ranked. Every bird knows its position relative to its fellows, as well as the ranking of the other birds. Though the pairs are supposed to be monogamous, there is infidelity. On occasion, a female mated to a low-ranking male will leave the nest and sneak into the territory of a higher-ranking male nearby. She is not moving randomly, but very selectively - mating with a bird ranked above her own mate. Female barn swallows are only adulterous when they meet a male who has a longer tail than her mate.
Females mated to very short-tailed males engage in these extra-marital affairs the most. The short-tailed husband retaliates by attempting to have affairs himself but he is rarely successful. He punishes his cheating wife by reducing his attention to her babies. Male Red Back Salamanders look for females who will be true to them. They shy away from the openly flirtatious. However, like all plans of mice and men, once he finds a shy homely virgin and the two form a pair, the female, who likes hunky males, flirts with others secretly. When she returns to her mate, he can sense if his partner has associated with another male by smelling the other male on her skin. Punishment takes the form of increased use of threat postures and even nipping. Black Vulture pairs are believed to mate for life, remaining together year-round. The male is strictly monogamous but some wives tend to stray. Woe be to her if she is seen with her lover. For black vultures, enforcing monogamy is a family affair: If caught having sex with a bird other than its partner, the vulture gets harassed by not only its mate, but by other vultures in the area. A scientific study has found that female zebra finches who cheat on their husbands are those who have seen their fathers cheat on their mothers! What fun the world is. And how sad that we have reduced it to such desperation that each species is simply looking to survive and find food and water, rather than enjoying the gifts of the planet.