Bats in Love – the flying fox performs oral sex

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Love; you see someone you like and you would like to impress him or her. Behavior to impress a potential partner is very common in the animal kingdom. Take for example the peacock, which uses his magnificent tale to impress the ladies. There are countless examples of one sex trying to impress the other sex. We humans also show this behavior; with strange rituals in a bar late at night we try to impress individuals of the other sex. But one thing which is a lot less common in animals is something which happens during mating, oral sex. Although common in humans, this behavior is not found in many other animals. But recently scientist discovered that we are not the only species showing this behavior, bats also perform oral sex!


Photo by Dr. Raju Kasambe

The flying fox

The flying fox (Pteropus giganteus) is a bat which can be found in India. Researchers of the Madurai Kamaraj University in India followed the mating behavior of these bats for over a year, what they found was unexpected. The male bats lick the female vagina both before and after mating. The longer he licks, the longer the mating lasts. But the longer he licks before mating, the shorter he will lick after mating. The researchers expect that this behavior increases the chance the female will be willing to mate. The longer mating might also increase the chance that the male will be the actual father of her offspring. The mating ritual can be seen on video:


 The greater short-nosed fruit bat


 Greater short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx)

Photo by Anton Croos

The flying fox isn’t the only bat that performs oral sex. The greater short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) also performs oral sex. The big difference in this species is that it is not the male which performs the oral sex but the female. The female will lick the shaft of the penis during sex, the longer she licks, the longer the mating will last. Stimulating the penis during sex increases the length of mating and would also increase the chance of fertilization. There is also a movie of this behavior.

So bats are an interesting group to investigate sexual behavior. Different behaviors can be found in different species. Although there is no experimental proof of an adaptive value of this behavior, the behavior itself gives us something to think about. I for one am very curious on the adaptive value and hope that the authors will write about it soon.


Maruthupandian J, Marimuthu G (2013) Cunnilingus Apparently Increases Duration of Copulation in the Indian Flying Fox, Pteropus giganteus. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59743. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059743

Tan M, Jones G, Zhu G, Ye J, Hong T, et al. (2009) Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7595. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007595

August 30, 2013March 10, 201700In sexual behaviourTags , ,

About author

Chris Jacobs (Chris Jacobs)

Evolutionary biologist, eco-evo-devo | seek to increase the understanding of science | PostDoc @ Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.

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