10 Animals with the Weirdest Mating Rituals

brown donuts on white paper
Photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash

On Valentine’s Day, people in love often give special gifts like red roses and heart-shaped chocolates or take their partners to fancy dinners. However, showing affection can be risky for animals. Males might try to impress females with flashy displays, but that could also attract predators. Even though animal courting behaviors might seem odd to us, they serve their purpose well. Here are ten animals with the weirdest mating rituals.

Angler Fish

“Angler Fish” by NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

When angler fish mate, the male bites onto the female and stays stuck to her. He basically lives like a freeloader on her bigger body. But as time goes on—the male gets absorbed into the female, losing himself entirely. All that’s left are his reproductive parts, which the female holds onto until she wants to have babies.


A Person Underwater Holding A Small Octopus
Photo by Maël BALLAND on Pexels

Abdopus aculeatus, a type of octopus, has a tricky mating system. Some males live close to their female partners’ homes to protect them. Others, called “sneaker” males, pretend to be females to trick the guards and mate with the females. Yet, avoiding fights with other males isn’t their only reason for changing color. Octopuses aren’t big fans of each other. Males might also act like females to avoid being eaten by them.


Close-up Photography of Hippopotamus
Photo by Min An on Pexels

In the hippo world, urine and poop are like fancy perfume. Male hippos want to impress females, so they don’t just go to the bathroom near them—they use their tails to spin and their super strong farts to spread the smell around. They want all the females nearby to notice. If a female likes what she smells, she’ll lift her rear out of the water to show interest by spraying him with dung. 


“Fuchsia Flatworm – Pseudoceros ferrugineus” by zsispeo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Flatworms live in the sea and have both male and female parts for making babies. When two flatworms meet—they both have these pointy penises with two heads. They try to poke each other with these and pass on some sperm. But just because one gets pregnant doesn’t mean the other one loses. In lots of types of flatworms, the “dads” keep on poking others until they get some sperm too.


“Wilhelma: Bonobo” by to.wi is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

While many animals mate to have babies, bonobos are different. They’re pretty much open to mating with anyone, anytime, regardless of gender. They don’t get too jealous, either. They mate to make friends, strengthen their group bonds, and sometimes even as a way to trade things. Plus, they’re one of the few animals, other than humans—who do it face-to-face.


Common Clownfish
Photo by Andreas L on Pexels

Clownfish start off as males and have to fight their way up a ladder based on size and toughness. But the ones that make it to the very top get a big reward: They turn into females and become the only ladies in the group. Then, they get to mate with the second toughest clownfish. Only they are allowed to do it.

Marsupial Mice

“Hopping Mice” by Stephen Michael Barnett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For these little Australian marsupials, puberty is a tough time for the guys. When they’re ready to have babies, their testes break down, and they only have a short time to mate. They’ve got just a few weeks to use up all their stored sperm before they kick the bucket. During this time, they go without sleep, rushing around like crazy to find mates. Their fur falls out—and they get sores and infections.

Garter Snake

Garter Snake on Brown Grass
Photo by Thomas Shockey on Pexels

In Narcisse, Manitoba, something wild happens every spring: the biggest snake party in the world, and it’s a full-on frenzy. The guys show up first from their hideouts underground. When a big lady arrives, the guys all swarm around her, forming a massive group where up to 100 males try to mate with her at once. Sometimes, male snakes even release scents that make them smell like females—tricking other males into trying to mate with them.

Puffer Fish

white and brown fish in close up photography
Photo by Stelio Puccinelli on Unsplash

There’s a little type of puffer fish that goes all out to impress their potential mates. For about a week, they worked hard making fancy circular designs on the ocean floor, adding bits of shells to decorate. The guys swim around and flap their fins, creating circles as big as 2 meters wide! When they’re done, the females come over to check out the circles and decide if they want the guys who made them. 


Top View of Bees Putting Honey
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

When a drone bee finally gets to mate with the queen, it’s his final act. He ejaculates with a big pop, and his endophallus bursts, leaving him paralyzed and flipped over. The barbed part stays stuck in the queen, tearing his body apart as it’s ripped out. He doesn’t make it. But the queen keeps his sperm for later.