Oral sex, also known as fellatio, was thought to be performed by only a few species of animals such as the juvenile bonobos (Pan paniscus). However, short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) is now known as the first adult animal species to have such fellatio habits as well. Scientists at the Guangdong Entomological Institute in Guangzhou, China, found out the interesting behavioural trait by coincidence when they were initially observing bats’ behaviours such as grooming or the construction of tents from Chinese fan-palm leaves.
“We did not expect fellatio in fruit bats at the beginning,” said researcher Libiao Zhang, a biologist at the Guangdong Entomological Institute in Guangzhou, China. “We were also surprised at how often it occurred.”
The fellatio habit in fruit bats has been observed to be a regular occurrence. Of the 20 observed mating bat pairs, 70% of the females performed fellatio on the males in which the females would often lick the shaft of the males’ penis during penetration. Intriguingly, this action was observed during 14 of 20 copulation. The licking lasted for an average of 19 seconds, or roughly one-twelfth the average time of copulation. On top of that, the male did not withdraw from the female during fellation. In fact, it was observed that the act of penetration lasted longer: fellating females mated for an average of 4 minutes, twice as long as the other non-fellating females.
Although the only proven fact is that fellatio leads to longer copulation in fruit bats, the scientists speculate a few reasons behind this occurrence. One reason could be that fellatio may prevent transmission of sexual diseases, based on the antimicrobial properties of the bats’ saliva. Another reason could be that fellation may facilitate sperm transport and stimulate female glandular secretions, thus increasing the likelihood of fertilization.
Links to secondary sources
Nancy Shefferly & Paul Fritz, 2005. Male chimpanzee behavior in relation to female ano-genital swelling. American Journal of Primatology, 26(2): 119-131
Frans B. M. de Waal, 1988. The Communicative Repertoire of Captive Bonobos(Pan paniscus), Compared to That of Chimpanzees. Behaviour, 106(3): 183-251
“Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time” by Tan M, Jones G, Zhu G, Hong T, et al. PLoS ONE, 28 October 2009. URL: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007595 (accessed on 17 March 2010)
“Scientists discover that bats practice oral sex ” by Jeremy Hance. Mongabay.com, 28 October 2009. URL: http://news.mongabay.com/2009/1027-hance_batsex.html (accessed on 17 March 2010)
“A Little Fellatio Goes a Long Way” by Cassandra Brooks. ScienceNOW, 30 October 2009. URL: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2009/10/30-02.html (accessed on 18 March 2010)