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Research: The serotine bat makes use of its super-large penis as an arm when mating

closeup of a serotine bat
Enlarge / “That is not my arm”: Male serotine bats have such giant penises, they’ll use them as an arm whereas mating.

Alona Shulenko

Little is thought concerning the mating habits of the serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus), however the males of the species boast unusually giant penises—a lot bigger than the vaginas of the females. The aim of such an infinite organ has lengthy baffled scientists. However a current paper revealed within the journal Present Biology revealed that the males of this bat species use their gigantic members not for penetrating females whereas mating, however as an arm to push the feminine’s tail sheath apart, thereby enhancing the chances of profitable insemination.

Eurasian serotine bats may be acknowledged by their lengthy smoky-brown fur (with pale yellow-brown underbelly), giant triangular ears, and distinctive flight sample: bouts of flapping interspersed with transient glides. They sometimes roost in older buildings like church buildings which have excessive gables and cavity partitions, or deserted mines. The male bats are largely solitary till fall mating season arrives, when they search out females. Females arrange maternity colonies round late Could in Europe and stay there all through the breeding season, normally giving delivery to a single offspring (pup) in late summer time.

Feminine bats have unusually lengthy cervixes, the higher to retailer sperm. The males have penises which might be seven instances longer than the females’ vaginas, with a heart-shaped head seven instances wider than the vaginal opening. “By probability, we had noticed that these bats have disproportionately lengthy penises, and we had been at all times questioning, ‘How does that work?’” mentioned co-author Nicolas Fasel of the College of Lausanne. “We thought perhaps it is like within the canine the place the penis engorges after penetration in order that they’re locked collectively, or alternatively perhaps they simply could not put it inside, however that sort of copulation hasn’t been reported in mammals till now.”

To seek out out, Fasel et al. perused near 100 movies depicting serotine bats in flagrante. 4 of these movies got here from a bat rehab middle in Ukraine, however the remaining had been filmed mating within the attic of a Dutch church by an intrepid citizen scientist. The bats normally mated for lower than 53 minutes on common, though one stud continued for a powerful 12.7 hours. The earliest mating occasions occurred in September and peaked in frequency in October, though there have been 4 mating occasions that occurred in March/April. The authors view this as proof that each men and women can internally retailer sperm for months.

Ventral (a) and dorsal (b) views of the erect penis, plus scaled digital microscope photographs of the female genital tract (c) for comparison.
Enlarge / Ventral (a) and dorsal (b) views of the erect penis, plus scaled digital microscope pictures of the feminine genital tract (c) for comparability.

N.J. Fasel et al., 2023

The act itself sometimes begins with a male bat latching onto a feminine, biting the pores and skin on her nape, after which launching into a mix of hindquarter motion and “fast probing actions of the totally erect penis.” Females typically emitted social calls throughout this early mating stage, however the calls ceased as soon as the male bat succeeded in pushing its penis proper in opposition to the vulva, solely transferring intermittently after that. At no level did the male bats insert the penis into the vagina (intromission), and even when they’d tried, the totally erect penis head was so giant that it would not have match via the opening anyway.

The authors did observe that after mating, the feminine stomach had a moist look, suggesting the presence of semen (i.e., the males ejaculated onto the females’ abdomens). This has beforehand been noticed in little brown bats and noctule bats, however since Fasel et al. didn’t take a vaginal swab to check for the presence of sperm, this statement is inconclusive.

So why would possibly the serotine bat have advanced such an infinite intercourse organ? The authors recommend that females would possibly use their tail membranes to keep away from mating, and the males’ lengthy, thick penises might be used to push that membrane apart. “The hole construction noticed within the dorsal aspect of the erect penis would possibly function a suction cup and help the upkeep of the copulatory contact,” the authors wrote. “Subsequently, the penis’s dimension, form, and extended embrace would possibly additional help the transport of sperm cells into the vagina and thru the lengthy cervix.”

The following step is to conduct additional research on the standard penis morphology and to seize the mating habits of serotine bats in additional pure contexts, evaluating it with the mating habits of different bat species. “We are attempting to develop a ‘bat porn field,’ which will probably be like an aquarium with cameras in every single place,” mentioned Fasel.

DOI: Present Biology, 2023. 10.1016/j.cub.2023.09.054  (About DOIs).

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