[Researchers Gemma Morrow and Stewart Nicol] found echidnas having sex on 26 occasions over the last two years. In 11 of these sessions, the female was accompanied by more than one male and one three occasions, she was with no less than four! Over a third of the females were torpid - slow to react to things going on around them, and with body temperatures of 10 to 29 degrees Celsius. The males, on the other hand, were always active and had the normal echidna body temperature of 32C. When the duo swabbed the genitals of some of the hibernating females, they found that the majority were full of sperm, some of it fresh and often from the same male.Of course, all this talk of male echidnae mating with comatose female echidnae immediately made my girlfriend exclaim, "Wait, you've been watching echidna roofie porn?!" It didn't help that I was watching this video:
The researchers hypothesize that one of the reasons for this less than romantic sexual behavior is the intense sexual competition among male echidnae. Male echidnae have large ranges on a small island, and the available time to mate with females is rather short. This results in intense competition for mating opportunities, which makes copulating with semi-comatose females relatively attractive. The researchers also suggest female echindae may use the randy behavior of the males to their advantage; if a female finds herself impregnated at an inconvenient time during her torpor, she can choose to re-enter hibernation in the hopes of being re-impregnated by a different male.
All this talk of echidna sex reminded me of another post by one of the awesome people over at ScienceBlogs, this one showing pictures of shocking interracial sex. (Don't worry, the post is safe for work. No, really.) Apparently, male common Eurasian frogs are horny enough to attempt to penetrate pretty much everything - including dead salamanders.
Don't ask me why I was so fascinated by the salacious details of different animals' sex lives tonight - I guess it was just one of those days.