Eptesicus serotinus: Unusual mating behavior discovered in mammals for the first time

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Eptesicus serotinus: Unusual mating behavior discovered in mammals for the first time

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Bats have lengthy been the odd ones out amongst mammals.

They’re the one creatures on this department of the animal kingdom able to powered flight. Now researchers say they’ve found one other distinctive trait, with video revealing that the serotine bat would be the first mammal identified to mate with out utilizing penetration.

Additionally identified by the scientific identify Eptesicus serotinus, serotine bats mate by touching their genitals collectively. The male bat makes use of its penis extra like an arm to maneuver a protecting membrane away from the feminine bat’s vulva, based on a examine revealed Monday in the journal Current Biology.

Bats have “unimaginable” reproductive biology that has been troublesome to check given the nocturnal and secretive nature of many bat species, mentioned examine coauthor Nicolas Fasel, a bat specialist on the College of Lausanne in Switzerland.

“More often than not you’ll see their backs on the wall, and also you don’t see what’s actually taking place in entrance,” he mentioned.

Nevertheless, due to the efforts of a Dutch bat fanatic who arrange 18 video cameras in a church within the Netherlands that was residence to a roosting colony of serotine bats, Fasel and his colleagues have been in a position to analyze 93 mating occasions intimately. Video of a further 4 mating occasions involving the identical species got here from collaborators at a bat rescue and rehabilitation middle in Ukraine.

“You’ll be able to actually see the copulation and see that the penis shouldn’t be going inside,” Fasel mentioned.

The footage confirmed that half of the recorded mating episodes lasted lower than 53 minutes, whereas on one event a pair of bats stayed collectively in a copulative embrace for greater than 12 hours. The habits is much like a “cloacal kiss,” a method of mating utilized by many birds.

What Fasel and his colleagues noticed on the movies could remedy a long-standing puzzle concerning the reproductive biology of this species of bat, and others in the identical household.

The information on bat mating behavior could help with efforts to come up with a way to artificially inseminate endangered bat species.

The male bat’s penis is round seven occasions longer than its feminine counterpart’s vagina, and it has a heart-shaped head that’s seven occasions wider than the vaginal opening. These are options that seem to make penetrative intercourse troublesome, if not unimaginable, Fasel famous.

Teri Orr, an assistant professor and specialist in bat reproductive techniques at New Mexico State College, mentioned she was initially “astonished” to see that males could also be utilizing their genitalia as a “copulatory arm” and “possibly transferring sperm a lot as birds do.” Orr was not concerned with the examine.

“Bats use their uropatagia (tail membranes) in lots of distinctive methods akin to fishing nets, to catch pups throughout start and so forth and thus they’re helpful in some ways however maybe an obstacle throughout mating,” Orr mentioned.

“I agree that the male of this species could use his genitalia to navigate the feminine’s tail however there are some key issues to be sorted out,” she added by way of e mail. “For one: how is the sperm transferred precisely and for an additional what’s the feminine doing on this pair?”

The habits of the serotine bat reported within the paper is “weird and distinctive” if true, mentioned Alan Dixson, a biology professor on the Victoria College of Wellington in New Zealand and the writer of the 2021 guide “Mammalian Sexuality: The Act of Mating and the Evolution of Replica.” Nevertheless, in his view, the researchers hadn’t supplied adequate proof to help their uncommon declare, added Dixson, who additionally was not part of the examine.

Examine coauthor Susanne Holtze, a senior scientist on the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Analysis in Berlin, acknowledged that they’d not been in a position to definitively show the switch of sperm from male to feminine bats and mentioned that can be a spotlight of future analysis.

“It’s a little bit of an open query how their semen actually will get into the feminine reproductive tract. It is likely to be that there’s type of suction concerned. We can not absolutely reply this mechanism,” she mentioned.

Holtze, who focuses on assisted copy in animals, mentioned that the knowledge they uncovered throughout the examine would assist together with her work to provide you with a strategy to artificially inseminate bats.

“There are greater than 1,000 species of bats, and plenty of of them are additionally endangered, she mentioned. “To date, no adequate technique for assisted copy has been established.”

Orr, the bat specialist at New Mexico State College, mentioned the examine would inform her lab’s work on bat copy and whether or not the bizarre reproductive habits has any implications for understanding human infertility.

“Bats do a whole lot of excessive issues throughout copy from storing sperm to extending the period of a being pregnant,” she defined.

There are few bat biologists, and most have a tendency to concentrate on the extra apparent but nonetheless fascinating facets of bat biology akin to flight and echolocation, “slightly than what the bats are doing ‘behind closed doorways,’” Orr mentioned.

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