Sexy Beasts: Reptiles Doin’ It and Doin’ It and Doin’ It Well

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Henry, the 111-year-old tuatara (like a lizard but more accurately a reptile whose lineage can be traced back 225 million years to dinosaur times) was a proud father to eleven babies this weekend. Henry was a frigid cow until a captive breeding program in New Zealand realized he had a tumor in his bum. After surgery Henry was horny and knocked up his baby momma, 80-year-old Mildred, who laid her eggs last August. Hurrah, the tuatara are that much further from extinction!

Henny and Mil have a fascinating sex life, but who knew the rest of the reptile world did too?

Here are some reptilian sex facts:

  • Penis Envy: Male reptiles have internal testicles and either a single penis (turtles and tortoises, crocodilians) or a pair of hemipenes (lizards, snakes) that look like two bulges at the base of the tail. One penis is scary enough, but two-pronged? Jeebus! Here’s some graphic imagery.
  • Let’s Get it On: For fertilization, the male puts his penis or hemipenes (eek) into the females cloaca, which is defined as “an outlet into which the intestinal, urinary, and genital tract open.” What’s with science making everything less sexy?
  • Sperm Banks: After le sex, sperm can be stored for up to six years and fertilize subsequent eggs with no male contact!  Similarly, once I told a guy I was keeping his used condoms in the fridge. He never called again.
  • Ice Cream and Pickles: The egged-up female (also called gravid) usually doesn’t eat for 3-6 weeks before laying eggs since her abdomen is full of eggs. Unlike pregnant women who take pregnancy as an excuse to finally ditch the diet and eat like a greedy food monster.
  • Go Lay an Egg: After the eggs have formed inside the female, she deposits the eggs, ideally into a sand bank and then she covers them up, destroys any evidence, and leaves the suckers alone. Incubation time varies from 45 days in lil’ lizards to over a year for some tortoises. I bet pregnant women wouldn’t be so grumpy if she didn’t have to carry her babies.

WordUp:

cloaca= (Latin: “sewer”) common chamber and outlet into which the intestinal, urinary, and genital tracts open. It is present in amphibians, reptiles, birds, elasmobranch fishes (such as sharks), and monotremes.

By the Numbers:

225 million=years the tuatara reptiles’ lineage can be traced back

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