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Lions mating in missionary position

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Ailouros, 27 Apr 2015.

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  1. Ailouros

    Ailouros Member

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    Here are Zuri and Safina, a pair of lions at Linton Zoo, Cambridgeshire. They regularly mate in the missionary position as shown. On U-tube is a video of an attempted such mating but the only actual missionary-position lion mating I can find was posted on flickr very recently by a Luke Jones on 8th April and seems to be have been taken in the wild rather than at Linton!

    This mating position is generally said to be confined to humans and bonobos but there are reasons for believing it might occur in felids. In most mammals such as dogs and horses the penis is parallel to the body axis and perpendicular to the back legs, so that the animals must mate standing with the hind legs vertical. A face-to-face position with the female on her back is impossible unless she is supported from below - she would have to lie on a bench!

    In felids the penis is perpendicular to the body axis and points directly downwards and parallel to the back legs - look at domestic cats. This is associated with the felid habit of scent-marking by urinating backwards, which would not be possible with the forward-pointing penis of other mammals.

    Consequently when felids mate the male does not stand on his hind legs but must crouch; the female therefore lies down also. Now it does not matter which way up she is, making the missionary position possible.

    Humans and bonobos are at least partly bipedal with the hind legs parallel to the body axis and hence to the penis which also allows the face-to-face position.

    Any examples found in other felids? Or other mammals?
     

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  2. Carl Jones

    Carl Jones Well-Known Member

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    There is of course a bird that mates face to face and that is the Hihi or stitchbird from New Zealand,
     
  3. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Don't several aquatic mammals also mate face to face (cetacea, beavers, manatees, sea otters)?
     
  4. Ailouros

    Ailouros Member

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    Marine mammals - I had heard about dolphins at least. If animals mate in water, this provides physical support allowing mating in any anatomically feasible position - I gather dolphins can be quite inventive as one might expect from their high intelligence. They do not have the problems that land mammals such as horses or dogs might encounter, as mentioned in my original post.

    The rarity of the face-to-face position in those land animals like felids where it is possible may be due to the vulnerability of the partner underneath. If the pair is surprised by a predator, whilst the partner on top can escape quickly, the one on its back must right itself before escaping. It is perhaps significant that lions, who have nothing to fear, seem to be the only felids so far observed in this position. They also regularly mate in the open, visible to all, again presumably because of their invulnerability. So I would not expect face-to-face mating in cheetahs who presumably because of their vulnerability to lions, hyenas etc. usually mate in the dark or under cover so are seldom observed. But tigers?

    Lions are also the most social felids and is it possible that a liking for face-to-face mating is connected with emotional bonding? - if that is not to anthropomorphise. The lion pair I photographed at Linton have been together for years and neither has had any other partner in that time; they frequently lie cuddled up together. I cannot speak for Luke Jones' wild pair on flickr - are they from a pride that has been studied and whose history is known?

    Aquatic partners surprised by predators can probably escape equally easily from almost any position, allowing dolphin-like inventiveness.

    Birds mostly lack a penis so mate by a 'cloacal kiss' which might seem to allow a diversity of positions. Perhaps vulnerability and the difficulty of escape for the partner on its back debars the face-to-face position in most cases. Or does the hihi mate face-to-face standing up? - a possibility in bipedal species like birds - and ourselves.