Photo: Pixabay

Dolphins frankly terrify me a little because I think they’re too smart for their own good. Perhaps I was traumatized by a viewing of that Simpsons episode where the dolphins take over Springfield and beat everybody up. Or maybe I’m a big old baby. All of my (possibly) unfounded fears are irrelevant now in the face of these facts I’ve learned about just how complicated it is for dolphins to fuck.

Dara Orbach is a woman who has spent the past seven years of her professional career studying dolphin vaginas. Patricia Brennan and Diane Kelly are two women who have studied dolphin penises. These three women have joined forces in an attempt to crack the code on how dolphins do it, reports the Washington Post, taking on a “task that involved inflating penises, fitting them into vaginal tracts and taking pictures of it all.”

Advertisement

Here’s another fun fact: we know a lot more about the genitalia of male animals because their shit is exterior and therefore easier to study. Also — I’ve said it before and I will say it again— dolphin sex is fucking hard.

For starters, dolphin sex takes place under trying circumstances. The animals must properly connect despite ocean currents, and salty seawater, which is lethal to cetacean sperm, must be kept out of the uterus. What’s more, dolphins, porpoises and whales have vaginas with extremely unusual twists, folds and recesses — you might say they are kinky — that sperm must traverse to make a baby.

Okay, now we know that dolphins have kinky vaginas. Dolphin penises are also twisty because if they weren’t, how would dolphins be able to bone successfully? To get to the bottom of that question, Orbach and her colleagues collected the reproductive tracts of dolphins that had died of natural causes, inflated the penises using the same kind of pump you’d use to tap a keg of Natty Light and inserted the ballooned dongs into the vaginas. Then they took a CT scan to see how it all worked, giving them a clear picture of dolphin intercourse.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Successful dolphin reproduction is difficult, because the twists and turns of a dolphin vagina make it harder for the sperm to navigate and fertilize the egg. Female dolphins also make it harder for male dolphins to successfully get it in by twisting their bodies while they’re doing it, making it difficult for the male. According to Orbach, “This could be a way to induce the best possible sperm, or the most competitive male, to achieve paternity.” Also, raising a dolphin calf is a lot of goddamn work and these female dolphins don’t want to waste their time.

Why would female dolphins want to make conception difficult? Because they have lot of suitors, and reproduction is time-consuming. At the height of their fertility, female cetaceans mate as many as 15 times in 15 minutes with two or three males, Orbach said. Pregnancy lasts 11 months, and calves are nursed for two years.

“It’s a very substantial investment of a female’s life in her developing fetus and calf as well,” she said. “So from a female’s perspective, she wants some way to control who’s going to be the father.”

This information could help conservation biologists study how endangered reproduce in captivity and is also just a fun fact to pull out at cocktail parties where you don’t know anyone but want to suss out the crowd. I’m still terrified of dolphins but now I respect them more. Science wins again.