A church surveillance camera is believed to have captured the first-ever recording of mammals mating without intromission (the act of penetration).
Black and white video footage shows two serotine bats wiggling and thrashing around while pressed up against a metal grill and researchers believe the video solves a long-standing puzzle about the unusual creatures.
A male serotine bat has a penis that when erect is roughly seven times longer than its partner’s vagina and has a heart-shaped head at the end; in theory, this makes mating impossible.
But the video appears to show that, instead of engaging in penetrative sex, the serotine bat uses his whopping penis like an extra arm to push aside the female’s tail sheath out of the way and make contact with the vulva.
Dr. Nicolas Fasel, a bat expert from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, says he is “surprised.”
“In the evidence we’ve gathered, it’s quite clear there is no penetration,” Dr. Fasel tells The Guardian.
“We thought maybe it’s like in the dog where the penis engorges after penetration so that they are locked together, or alternatively maybe they just couldn’t put it inside, but that type of copulation hasn’t been reported in mammals until now.”
The camera footage was captured in St Matthias Church in the village of Castenray in the Netherlands, placed behind a grid that the bats climb on.
It is not the only video, researchers have analyzed a total of 97 mating videos, 93 of them from the Dutch church and four from a Ukrainian bat rehabilitation center.
The study found that the males will grab their partners by the nape and probe their pelvises until they make contact with the female.
Once there, they will hold position for 53 minutes on average with the longest occurence lasting nearly 13 hours.
Post-mating, the researchers spotted wetness on the female bats’ bodies, suggesting semen, according to the paper publised in Current Biology.
The scientists are furthering their inquries by building a “bat porn box” to film the mating ceremony from all angles.
Image credits: Feature photo licensed via Depositphotos.