Kinky sea slugs enjoy getting stabbed during sex

It’s safe to say that the hermaphroditic sea slug has a strange sex life. However, its bizarre sexual routine could actually benefit it, according to new research.

The siphopteron quadrispinosum species of sea slug is a simultaneous hermaphrodite, meaning it has both male and female sexual organs that it can use at the same time.

However, when a couple of sea slugs decide to get down to it, things get a bit traumatic for the ‘female’.

The ‘male’ uses a syringe-like organ to stab its partner and injects prostate fluid into its body, before inserting its penis into the partner’s genital opening. This is where things go slightly wrong. The penis flicks spines out that anchor it into place, causing some not so nice side effects to the other slug.

Perhaps understandably, most sea slugs prefer to act as the male or resist mating altogether. In theory, if mating is so traumatic, the slugs should avoid sex unless absolutely necessary.

However, the research found that the slugs still had sex much more often than was needed to simply fertilise their eggs, suggesting that the mating has some benefits that go beyond simply reproduction and offsets the harm caused. But what could that be?

According to project leader Mike Siva-Jothy of the University of Sheffield, the injection of prostate fluid could contain essential nutrients that benefit the slug – much in the way that male insects (and male humans) might offer food as a way of bribing females to mate.
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