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What Human and Animal Sex Lives Have in Common

Sex and Science: What Human and Animal Sex Lives Have in Common

To help curious lovers celebrate Valentine's Day, the California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco turned its weekly Wine and Dine event into an evening about sex and science this past Sunday. The night included an hour-long tour about the sex lives of the Academy's most amorous animals, followed by a delicious three-course dinner at the museum's restaurant The Moss Room. I was invited to attend and found it to be a wonderfully nerdy and romantic date! Below, find five things I learned about sex in the animal kingdom, and how it compares to our own mating practices.


Some animals:
Can last longer. Thanks to a penis bone, seen above, certain animals can have sex practically nonstop for days. For example, male lions can mate every 20 minutes with a female in heat. Such frequency raises the chances of pregnancy, and guarantees that the male lion knows the offspring is his. Animals with a penis bone never soften or shrink — so you know humans do not have such bone. But how come? Scientist suspect that a lack of penis bone helps female humans select healthy males, since it takes a level of health to get an erection. Viagra is throwing a wrench in evolution.

Mate for life. Just like us, some animals, like penguins, find a mate for life. When penguins are young, they test out different partners, but once they find the one, they perform a series of rituals to cement the bond (like a wedding, but free). When a mate dies, they will attempt to find another.

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Are less picky. Jellyfish, for example, practice "broadcast spawning." The male shoots sperm out into the water, and the female gathers it up not knowing whose it is. The animal version of a sperm bank!

Can change sex. Many creatures under the sea can change sex in order to keep a balance of males to females. So for these hermaphrodite species, there really are always more fish in the sea — because if you can't find any decent males out there, the females will just become male themselves!

Have flings. Creatures like the leafy seahorse mate with an exclusive partner for a breeding season. Just like human Summer lovin'.

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