Photo: PLoS ONE
Previously, the only animals known to carry out oral sex – apart from humans – were bonobo chimpanzees.
However, the study, by Libiao Zhang and his team of biologists from Guangdong Entomological Institute in China, found that female bats were enthusiastic fellators, with 70 per cent performing oral sex on their mate during intercourse.
Science magazine reported: “Both sexes groomed each other during courtship. But then came the shocker.
“After the male mounted the female from behind, she bent over and began licking his penis.”
The research found that the longer a female licked for, the longer the intercourse: on average, a second of fellatio gained six seconds of intercourse. On average, mating lasted four minutes for fellators, twice the average of non-fellating females.
The researchers could only speculate why the females would want longer-lasting sex. They suggested that it could be a way to improve the transport of sperm, or to keep males away from rival females for longer.
Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta and an expert on bonobo chimpanzees, said: "The finding of fellatio in bats is exciting news."
He went on to say that animal oral sex may be more common than we realise, but researchers’ prudery has prevented this fact becoming known. He said: "Part of the reason fellatio is rarely mentioned is shyness about this issue."
Paul Vasey, a behavioral scientist at the University of Lethbridge in Canada, said that there could be evolutionary reasons for fellatio, and that the fruit bat discovery could allow scientists to test it. He warned, however, that the bats could just be doing it for fun.
An MPEG of the bats is available for the curious here.