Sexy Sea Slugs Take the Pain

Scientists can’t figure out why female sea slugs keep having sex.

They keep having sex even when they don’t need to for reproductive purposes. They keep on having sex despite the act being ‘an extravagant ritual that involves a syringe-like penile appendage that stabs the partner’.

It’s as if 50 Shades of Grey had never been written.

Because, despite all that, researchers into the sexual behaviour of the sea slug (who’d want that as their job description?) concede that there must be ‘some additional, indirect benefits to this traumatic mating beyond reproduction’.

Perhaps they just like it?


Female sea slugs mate more frequently than required to produce offspring, despite the highly traumatic and biologically costly nature of their copulation, as reported Aug. 22 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

The authors of the study, led by Rolanda Lange of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, investigated the mating behavior of a simultaneously hermaphroditic species of sea slug that mates via an extravagant ritual that involves a syringe-like penile appendage that stabs the partner to inject prostate fluids and sperm.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the sea slugs mate more frequently than minimally required for offspring production and that both elevated and reduced mating rates are detrimental to female fitness, suggesting that there may be some additional, indirect benefits to this traumatic mating beyond reproduction.

Source: Public Library of Science

Photo: Citation: Lange R, Gerlach T, Beninde J, Werminghausen J, Reichel V, et al. (2012) Female Fitness Optimum at Intermediate Mating Rates under Traumatic Mating. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43234. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043234

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