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Sex in the Sea is Fascinating: The Kinky Sex Lives of Aquatic Creatures

June 5, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller

Crayfish breeding in an aquarium.

Mating practices vary widely across different species—and they often occur in very unexpected ways. This is especially true when we look at how deep sea creatures mate.

For example, lobsters engage in a rather kinky courtship display, in which the female repeatedly sprays her desired mate’s den with her urine over a period of several days, releasing pheromones in the process. It’s an act of seduction that ultimately leads the male lobster to invite her in for mating.

In the TED talk below, marine biologist Marah Hardt shines a light on the unique mating practices of lobsters and many other aquatic creatures—and it’s absolutely fascinating.

Hardt doesn’t just describe how they mate, though. She also explores how human actions are affecting the sexual behaviors of sea creatures. Hardt highlights how understanding the various ways that creatures in the sea get it on can help us to develop better tools and practices for ensuring their survival—and the survival of our food chain more broadly. In short, she argues that we need “sex-friendly solutions” when it comes to things like fishing.

For example, fishing practices often take a one-size-fits-all approach, such as the idea that fish must be a minimum size in order to be taken out of the ocean. However, this assumption doesn’t account for the fact that different types of fish mate in very different ways. In fact, some species of fish change sex (like parrot fish)—and the largest fish of those species are all male.

By removing all of the males, this can make it harder for females to find a mate, or it can prompt the females to change sex earlier than they typically would, when they tend to be much smaller. Either way, the end result is that these fish tend to reproduce less.

To learn more about the fascinating sex lives of deep sea creatures, how human actions are affecting their mating practices, and what we can do to change this, check out the video below.

Watch more videos on sex and relationships here.

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Image Source: 123RF/Teresa Ponomareva

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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