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This snake puts so much effort into sex that it takes years off its life

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Dave Fawbert
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You probably think you put quite a lot of effort in when it comes to attracting a mate. Nice haircut, good clothes, thorough washing regime, splash of cologne, a winning smile, humourous conversation and a nice meal.

But, honestly, you are nothing – nothing – compared to the red-sided garter snake. You’ve barely even got out of bed mate.

New research published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B (how this didn’t make it into A, I will never know) shows that the red-sided garter snake puts so much effort into several ‘marathon sessions’ during the mating season that it shortens their lives.

What’s more, they do it all on an empty stomach, spending three weeks indulging in non-stop sexual activity without eating.

“The males are really stressed out. They are fasting during their most energetically expensive task. It would be like running several marathons in a row without eating,” said Dr Christopher Friesen, of the University of Sydney.

There is huge competition for females and a small opportunity for mating, so the red-sided garter snake goes all in on his love game, using up so much energy that there isn’t enough left to repair the DNA damage associated with ageing.

The combination of lack of food and this absolute commitment to banging mean that males can lose up to 10 per cent of their body weight during the process of searching for a mate, wooing them, and mating with them. What absolute heroes.

For lady snakes, though, it’s a very different situation. She expends less energy on mating and more on repairing her DNA, in order that she can mother her baby snakes successfully. In fact, on average, females grew 30 per cent longer than males.

“The relationship between body condition and age differed strikingly between the sexes, with females maintaining their body condition with age, while condition decreased with males,” explained Dr Friesen, who studied snakes in Manitoba, Canada.

“Although we believe that all female red-sided garter snakes mate every year, they only stay at the den sites – where mating takes place – for a short period of time of between one and three days. This is much less than the males who remain at least a week and can still be there after 21 days.”

Sounds a lot like a night out at Oceana if we’re being honest.

(Image: Rex)

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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