Female wombats like to bite male wombats on the butt when they are ready to mate, according to researchers at Australia's University of Queensland.
Published in Reproduction, Fertility, and Development, the study indicated that hairy-nosed wombats, which are endangered, don't breed well in captivity, and sought to document how females find mates in the darkness of night.
Using infrared cameras, researchers watched female wombats, which are nocturnal, puttering around looking for potential mates. The team of researchers also noticed that the females' urination patterns changed, possibly due to hormonal variations related to the desire to mate.
But as our headline states, the female wombats also exhibited a curious behavior—biting the rear ends of males that strike their fancy.
Tamara Keeley, one of the authors of the study, explained that butt biting, in congruence with nighttime pacing and changes in urinary patterns, could be indicative of females' desires to find a mate.
"Female wombats in the wild have been found to move around more than the males so it is possible that she goes out looking for potential mates in anticipation for breeding," Keely told Mashable. "It is possible that this biting behaviour is in response to an increased amount of attention by the male, a lack of interest in that particular male, or a means of trying to challenge him before mating to see if she deems him a suitable mate."
Butt biting, Keeley theorizes, is an attempt to gauge mating compatibility. Her theory is based on observations of other animals who engage in nibbling on the rear ends of potential mates.
"In some species, but not the wombat, females show behaviour signs associated with being in oestrus (receptive to the male)," Keeley said. "In wombats we were looking for any changes in any behaviour that might be linked to her reproductive status. Knowing when a female will be receptive to a male will help us better manage the animal and hopefully increase breeding success."