The most original methods of reproduction in the animal world

Reproductive relationships such as matriarchies or female-driven harems that do not reflect traditional polygyny or monogamy are, in turn, brought about as gender role reversals.

Inversions in the sea, sky and underground highlight the diversity of courtship in the animal kingdom…and the wondrous variety of life on Earth.


In the subterranean colonies of naked mole-rats, a powerful queen rules over hundreds of blind, hairless subjects. As in bee or ant colonies, naked mole rat queens are the only females to mate and give birth. She is joined by one, or even several male reproducers to whom she has granted the right to father the next generation. The rest of the colony is responsible for caring for the young, in addition to feeding the queen and widening the burrows with their sturdy teeth. Biologists call this functioning “extreme communal reproduction”.

“Naked mole rats are the most extreme example of this among mammals,” according to Melissa Holmes, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Toronto. “It’s extremely rare. »

The queen reigns supreme by suppressing breeding behaviors in the colony. For researchers, it can through dominant behavior, pushing and shoving colony members. When the queen dies another female can peacefully take her place beginning to mate and bear offspring. But sometimes, before her death, the designated females stage a coup, attack the queen and fight to the death for a chance to ascend the throne. Due to their exceptionally long lifespan, which can exceed thirty years, queens can reign over their colony for decades if not overthrown.

On the surface, in the floodplains and savannahs of Africa, female topi antelopes also take control of breeding situations. It’s not the males that fight each other for the right to mate: it’s the topis females that aggressively attack their competitors, some even going so far as to ambush couples in the middle of copulation. This competition is justified: topi females are only fertile one day a year. By pairing up with about four other males in a day, they increase their chances of conception. Meanwhile, topi males play their own love games, rejecting females with demands that they have already mated and accepting the advances of potential new mates.


Much like naked mole rats, groups of clownfish are led by a female who “manages the situation,” says Oregon Coast Aquarium aquarist Savannah Dodds. A male, the only fish allowed to fertilize her eggs, swims alongside her. Together they care for their developing eggs until they hatch. But if the female dies, an inversion of a completely different type occurs: her companion turns into a female and takes her place.


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