The Octopus May Spit, But Squid Swallow


To spit or to swallow: that is the question. The debate between male pleasure and female disgust has continued for centuries, and the last thing men need is another excuse why their partners should give them head. But a new Australian study provides just such evidence. According to Monash University professor Bob Wong and PhD student Benjamin Wegener, sperm is a nutritious food source.

Research has already told us semen is not only a source of protein, but also contains nutrients such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and potassium. But it’s still gross, right? Apparently not to southern bottletail squid.

According to the study recently published in the journal Biology Letters, the female squid consume sperm in order to increase egg production and maintain biologic symbiosis. They store the sperm in a special cavity near their mouths until it’s time to fertilize their eggs. But they also munch on some of the swimmers, which the study authors call “a nourishing food source for a manipulative mate.

Yes, those lady squid know exactly what they’re doing. The nutrients in the sperm are thought to increase their fertility, but the females may also be eating sperm deposited by unattractive males and only using sperm from preferred mates for fertilization.

That’s one way to ensure survival of the fittest in the sea.

If a male produces an ejaculate that isn’t able to successfully compete in the egg fertilization race, he is essentially an evolutionary dead end,” Wegener wrote. “Our research has shown how sexual selection, common to all sexually reproducing species, is capable of shaping a species’ reproductive strategies in some of the most unexpected ways. But it also raises more questions yet to be explored – are females using males as a food source or as a means to assess the quality of her partners? Are males even capable of using this feeding behavior to manipulate female reproduction? Hopefully future discoveries will uncover the answers.

The squid aren’t the only swallowers in the animal kingdom. But according to Wegener, sperm consumption—as opposed to ejaculate swallowing—“is far less common.” Humans are among the groups that swallow ejaculate, although it’s not a standard part of the reproductive process. That’s what she said, anyway.