During sex, female praying mantises have a tendency to kill their partners with a decapitating cutting blow that would make a samurai proud. But as this shocking new video shows, just because a male doesn’t have a head doesn’t mean he still can’t get it on.
The entirety of this gorgeous new Deep Look video about praying mantises is worth watching, but the nasty business starts around the 3:00 mark. The female chops off the male’s head during the courting stage, but like the horny insectoid zombie that it is, the male—sans head—continues to mate with the female, mounting her and delivering the sperm that will fertilize her eggs.
As explained in the video, the male’s body is still being controlled by nerves in its abdomen, and “it can still get the job done.”
Biologists refer to this behavior as sexual cannibalism, and the mantis female doesn’t do this out of spite or as some kind of mindlessly random act. A State University of New York-Fredonia paper from last year showed that males who get consumed by their mates are actually at a reproductive advantage. From a “selfish gene” perspective, this is actually good news for the mantis dude. As the study showed, females who eat their partners are able to produce more than twice the number of eggs than those who don’t.
Of course, males who survive mating could produce multiple times with other partners, so clearly there’s some evolutionary tension here. As this video shows, biology is messy, and it’s never satisfied with a single approach to survival.