How do the males of different species fight?

TWO spotted spider mites hunt for young females who are about to undergo their final moult and become adults. The male stands guard by sitting on the female with his legs draped over her body. If a second male arrives, then the two will wave their front legs at each other and try to trip each other up by spinning silk and attaching it to their opponent’s legs. The one more tripped up finally goes away.

Stalk eyed flies, Flies with eyes perched on the ends of long stiff stalks: males go head to head to compare the size of the eye. If there is not much difference they will fight. Otherwise the smaller eye owner will leave. 

Female sponge lice are attracted to places where other females live and so they end up congregating on water sponges (the white ones that you kill to use as bath tools). The entrance to their colony is through a chimney. The first male to get there takes over the females and then stands on his head sticking his legs through the chimney. The male who wants to take over has to pull him through the chimney while he waves his legs and pushes down. Obviously the bigger guy wins – (strangely enough, while the big guys fight, some little guys disguised as females slip down the chimney and mate with the harem !)

Staghorn beetles battle on the branch or log. They are heavily armoured so they cannot do each other much real damage. They have outsize jaws with which they wrestle to take over the female. The male who wins is the one who succeeds in picking up his rival and dropping him off the edge of the branch.

Male rhinoceros beetles have prongs on their heads. They fight in front of the female and the one who manages to overturn the other and leave him waving his legs upside down frantically is the one who gets her.

Rival Stick insects clasp the female and then with the rest of their legs they have a slow boxing match around her, trying to kick the other off. This may take hours but eventually one male is thrown off. 

Hissing cockroaches start with a sword fight using their antennae. Then they hiss, and rush at each other crashing their bodies together loudly. They keep doing this till the weaker one is driven back. The winner celebrates by slapping his abdomen against the cowering body of the vanquished male.

Male cichlid fish size each other up and then smack each other down – all based on the size of their mouths. After showing the size of their mouths, they line up side by side and push water at each other laterally, they lock jaws with each other and wrestle, breaking off every few minutes. If that does not dislocate the loser’s jaw, they chase each other in tight circles attempting to bite the tail off.

Some beings have a penchant for extreme violence. Male fig wasps have huge heads, knife-like mouth parts and heavily armoured shoulders. They spend all their time fighting and killing each other and pause for a bit to mate with the female and then go back to the battle. (Most are killed  in the fig so when you eat one you eat a lot of tiny dead wasps as well).

Male Nicaraguan Glass frogs fight grasping the side of the leaf or the stem with their back feet, hanging upside down, and wrestling one another. The winner is the one that knocks the other off or whoever is the first to scramble onto the leaf’s surface and flatten his body on it. Ecuador Cochran frogs battle while hanging upside down but in a belly-to-belly position and with their front legs wrapped around one another’s neck. They then pump their hind legs, which causes the wrestling pair to swing up and down and back and forth.

Male Dawson’s bees are so aggressive that they kill each other en masse in a bid to mate with females. As a female emerges, the male bees turn on one another, competing intensely to get access to her. Bundles of male bees form, with each trying to bite another to death. The result is mass murder. One male will emerge from the frenzy to mate but by then he is so charged up that he will often even kill the female. 

Black Mamba snakes wrestle and attempt to pin each other’s head repeatedly to the ground. Fights normally last a few minutes but can extend to over an hour or more. The one who gets fed up with having his head banged to the ground is the loser.

Annual fish are fish in Africa and South America who live in impermanent puddles and ditches. They are born, mate and die as the water dries. Their eggs are buried under the dried mud and as soon as the rains come the eggs hatch into fish. One would think that this short life in this tiny shallow puddle would be a calm one, but the males spend it fighting and killing each other .

Gladiator frogs have retractable knives on their hands ( So that’s where X Men got the idea from!). When they fight with each other they slash the eyes and ears till the opponent dies. Short lives but very violent ones.

Ringtailed lemurs fight over females. These fights involve lots of loud noises, and “stink fights.” The wrists of male ringtailed lemurs have scent or stink glands. Males pull their long tail between their wrists and cover the tail with smell. Males then stand face-to-face, shaking their stinky tail in the direction of their enemy. As yet, no one is sure how a winner is declared.

It seems that the male gene is wired to fight – and sometimes the fights are so comical and so unnecessary that the female can only look on in horror.

Animal rights activist, environmentalist and politician, Maneka Gandhi writes weekly column ‘Heads & Tails’ for the Kashmir Observer. She can be reached at: [email protected]

Gladiator frogs have retractable knives on their hands ( So that’s where X Men got the idea from!). When they fight with each other they slash the eyes and ears till the opponent dies. Short lives but very violent ones.


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