In a groundbreaking study published in Current Biology, researchers have for the first time documented mating behavior in a mammal that does not involve penetration. Specifically, the study focused on the serotine bat, revealing that male bats use their oversized penises to maintain contact with females during copulation.
The penises of male bats are about seven times longer than the vaginas of their partners and have a head-heart shaped seven times wider than the vaginal opening, making penetration impossible. Instead of functioning as a penetration organ, researchers found that male bats use their genitals to move the female’s tail sheath away and maintain contact during mating.
Nicolas Fasel, from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and lead author of the study stated, “We think that perhaps it is like in the dog, where the penis becomes engorged so that it becomes stuck or perhaps they simply could not insert it. However, this type of copulation had not been described in mammals until now.”
The study involved observing genitalia during copulation using images from cameras placed behind a grate that researchers could climb onto. They analyzed a total of 97 pairings from two different locations – the Dutch church and Ukrainian center. They also noted that the female’s abdomen appeared moist after copulation, suggesting semen transfer but more studies are needed to confirm sperm transfer.
Further research will be conducted to study mating behavior in other bat species and explore penis morphology and bonding behavior in more natural contexts. This new information raises questions about other bat species and sheds light on never-before-documented mating practices in mammals.