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When it comes to sex things can be complicated, but for the three species we are looking at today, sex is really hard.

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Whether it involves fighting your competition to the death, wearing a flashy outfit, getting peed on or straight up eaten by your mate, sex in the animal kingdom isn't always easy. In fact, you might say that it's just plain hard. 


(0.22) Courtship and mating can be difficult for a lot of different reasons, but one of the worst is probably when it's violent, like in traumatic insemination. It's exactly as bad as it sounds, and it's pretty common behavior among invertebrates, bed bugs for example.

Rather than bothering to find her reproductive tract, the male just stabs his mate with his needle like penis, piercing her abdominal wall and injecting sperm directly into her body cavity. Once inside, the sperm races through her hemolymph, the bed bug equivalent of blood, until it finds her ovaries.

(0.49) This is a pretty raw deal for female bed bugs. Not only do these stabbings leave open wounds at the risk of infection, but that needle thing isn't exactly clean and can introduce all sorts of pathogens into the female's body.

But the females seemed to have evolved a way to protect themselves: an extra layer in their abdomen called the spermalege. It's right where they tend to get pierced the most and helps absorb some of the trauma and protect against infection. 


(1:10) That's one extreme example of sex gone bad, but often the hardest part about sex can be finding a willing partner. Bowerbird males try to solve this problem by wooing females with wealth and even optical illusions.

The male birds spend months constructing elaborate, generally arch-like structures called bowers, which is where the bird gets the name. 

Now, the architectural skills involved might be impressive but it's the interior decorating that really gets the ladies interested. Males collect and display different, small objects like flower petals, colorful bits of plastic, pebbles, all kinds of stuff, and some birds even paint their bowers with chewed up berries, saliva or charcoal, and in the case of the Great Bowerbird species, they set up an optical illusion too.

The males arrange all that junk so that the bigger pieces are further from the bower. That way, when a female stands under the bower and looks out, all the objects look like they're the same size, and that works! A male with better illusions will be more successful at getting mates, and ornithologists aren't entirely sure why.

(2.05) One possibility is that it makes the whole area seem smaller than it is so the male looks bigger in comparison. It could also be that a complicated floor design may tell the female her potential date has extra smarts and therefore good genes, or maybe just holds her attention longer.

 Giant Pandas

(2:19) So for some animals, the mating process is dangerous, and others spend a lot of time and energy on dating, but sometimes the timing just isn't right. As continuous breeders, we humans can as least in theory get in on whenever the mood strikes us, but lots of other animals are only interested in sex during specific times of the year. They're seasonal breeders, meaning that usually a seasonal change in the length of the day triggers a series of hormones that leaves the animals fertile and frisky, and when it comes to giant pandas, that timing problem really works against them.

Females go into heat once a year and tend to only be open to male attention for a couple of days to a week at the most, and the females are only fertile for 24 to 36 hours of that, which doesn't leave much time for making adorable panda babies. I mean, what if one of them has a headache?

(3:02) That's part of why breeding pandas in captivity is so difficult. You essentially only have a day or so every year to make it happen, and that's assuming that both animals are in the mood, which they often aren't.

Plus, since they have so little practice or opportunity to watch other pandas mating, many captive pandas apparently don't know like what goes where and can't figure out how to actually do the sex. 

Zoo managers have tried helping their pandas get in the mood by showing them panda porn or giving them Viagra- seriously, both of those are real things- but they often have to go with the artificial insemination route, which even then does not usually work. 


So if you want something to be thankful for this Valentine's Day, just be glad that humans usually have it a little easier than bed bugs, bowerbirds and pandas.

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