by Karen Turner
In a recent accidental scientific discovery (as much of the best advances tend to be), Chinese scientists studying short-nosed fruit bats came across a startling, though rather familiar, mating habit. They found that female bats regularly performed fellatio on male bats before and during copulation. Oral sex in the animal kingdom is not unheard of, yet it is rarely seen as a regular sexual activity. Primates are the most frequently cited, yet fellatio among, for example, bonobos seems to resemble play more than a sexual act. As a result, scientists have struggled to find an evolutionary explanation for this practice. Seemingly the only example of frequent oral sex during copulation occurs among, well, us.
Which makes this recent discovery all the more exciting (intellectually, that is). Videos of the amorous bats, who copulate while hanging upside down, show female bats leaning upwards to lick their partners’ penises for an average of 19 seconds during sex. This amounts to an unimpressive 1/12 of the average length of bat sex, or just under 1%. Yet it seems that quality makes way for quantity for these female bats: in a sample of 20 videos, 14 couples engaged in fellatio. I’d be interested in a side-by-side comparison with human behavior, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the statistics were similar (maybe even less!).
Even more fascinating is that fellatio seems to prolong sex for these bats: the report stated that bats who included oral play in sex had about twice as much of it, with approximately one second of fellatio equating to an additional six seconds of intercourse. This has led scientists to theorize that the behavior increases the likelihood of sperm implantation by encouraging female secretions. Or perhaps female bats just want to keep their man away from the other gender–oral sex as a leg up on the competition. Another theory suggests that the exchange of saliva acts as a sanitation tool. Maybe the lady bat cleans the male penis of any fungi or bacteria before and during sex as a way to protect herself.
As research continues in this field, scientists will gain more information on why these bats "do" oral sex, thus shedding some light, hopefully, on why we homo sapiens engage in the same behavior.
Check out this *EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE* video of some bats engaging in fellatio.
Image Source: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/printable/common-vampire-bat.html