Endless forms: Oral sex by fruit bats

ResearchBlogging.orgOne of those scientific papers that seems to have been written with the blogosphere in mind: biologists have just published records of fellatio by the fruit bat Cynopterus sphinx. Apparently C. sphinx females are pretty flexible — they lick their mate’s penis during copulation, which evidently induces him to stay in longer (see the graph below, with drawing). The authors offer a handful of non-mutually-exclusive hypotheses for the adaptive benefit of the behavior, ranging from lubrication to increased fertilization efficiency. The full text is available for free at PLoS ONE, if you’re up for some hot-and-heavy behavioral observations.

Graph from Tan et al. (2009), Figure 3.

Update: In a more in-depth post over at Boing-Boing, Maggie Koerth-Baker wonders why there needs to be an adaptive purpose for a pleasurable behavior (there doesn’t, as far as I’m concerned), and points out that there’s also a video in the supporting information. Which video has some totally unscientific background music.


Tan, M., Jones, G., Zhu, G., Ye, J., Hong, T., Zhou, S., Zhang, S., & Zhang, L. (2009). Fellatio by fruit bats prolongs copulation time PLoS ONE, 4 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007595

See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot’s meds.

I expected the New York Times Magazine piece on veterinary pharmacology, “Pill-Popping Pets” to be an exercise in hand-wringing over feline neuroses and dogs on Prozac. And it is, to some extent. But it also takes an interesting detour into the implications of pets on antidepressants:

The debate about animal minds is at least as old as Aristotle, who posited that men alone possess reason. The 17th-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche wrote that animals “desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing,” while Voltaire asked, “Answer me, mechanist, has Nature arranged all the springs of feeling in this animal to the end that he might not feel?” Darwin’s view was, Of course not. In “The Descent of Man” he wrote, “We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties … of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.”

In other words, if Prozac has the same kind of effect on Spot that it does on Dick or Jane, then maybe Spot’s brain is more like theirs than we might want to admit.