Ever wonder how squid have sex? Now you can find out, thanks to a deep-sea "sex tape" that's being called the first of its kind.
The squid sex video (shown above) was taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "Little Hercules" remotely operated vehicle about 1,400 meters down in the northern Gulf of Mexico on April 13, 2012. Researchers have been studying it ever since.
"What you see is the male squid upside down on top of the female, holding her just behind the fin," biologist Mike Vecchione of NOAA/NMFS National Systematics Laboratory said in a written statement. "The white structure is the end of the male reproductive tract, which he is using to implant sperm packages on the female. Even for a squid biologist, this is still a little confusing because where he is placing his spermatophores is nowhere near where her eggs come out."
Yeah, what's up with that?
Well, Vecchione co-authored a new study for the December 2012 issue of The Biological Bulletin that suggests maybe the strange sex position improves mobility of the penis-like terminal organ, which is used to transfer those spermatophores (sperm capsules) to the female.
“People have guessed how the terminal organ was used, but in some ways they guessed wrong,” Vecchione told Smithsonian Science. “We knew the terminal organ was located in the mantle of the male but we didn’t know that it projected through the funnel."
The study also suggests that the sex position may help ensure proper positioning for sperm to successfully fertilize the eggs during spawning; or may prevent the female from grabbing, and perhaps eating, the dude she's having sex with.
"In this species the spermatophores inject sperm deep into the muscle of the female’s dorsal mantle," Vecchione told Smithsonian Science. "Because of this we guessed their mating was a really quick process in which the male darts in, shoots the female and then leaves. The video reveals it is a long process where the male is basically hanging on motionless for a long time. They were in that position when we first saw them in the video and they were still in that position when they swam away."