It's a clear, pristine midsummer night in the skies over eastern North America, and love is in the air... No literally, lovemaking is taking place in the air.
The sky is aflutter with the flapping wings of mating eastern red bats. Males and females join together in a deft, midair maneuver, then subsequently drift down to the ground, locked in coitus. It's a beautiful act between two majestic flying mammals, made possible by the male's gigantic, nightmarish penis spines.
Sorry to spoil the moment.
The spines are hypothesized to serve as copulatory clamps during aerial mating, but that's not all. They also may provide sensory feedback for the male bats, and believe it or not, stimulate the release of female sex hormones. How's that for a turn on, ladies?
stimulation in males, increasing stimulation in females, removing
copulatory plugs left by other males or even inflicting minor damage
during mating so that females are less receptive to sexual intercourse
with other males."
Just in case you weren't sufficiently irked by this blush-inducing discussion of prickly phalluses, I've got one more detail that might very well rile up some indignity: Our ancestors were adorned with penis spines as well. Don't fret however; they were certainly the less pronounced "bumpy" variety, perhaps similar to those of modern-day primates. They weren't of the frightening variety, like those of eastern red bats. Scientists hypothesize that these bumps may have been used to remove the previously deposited sperm of other male suitors. They also believe that the trait was lost when our species eschewed instinctive promiscuity in favor of socially evolved monogamy.
If penile spines are linked to promiscuity, perhaps that's why wanton sex remains such a thorny subject?
(Photo Source: Cryan PM, Jameson JW, Baerwald EF, Willis CKR, Barclay RMR, et al.
(2012) Evidence of Late-Summer Mating Readiness and Early Sexual
Maturation in Migratory Tree-Roosting Bats Found Dead at Wind Turbines.
PLoS ONE 7(10):