April 13 marks the International Kissing Day . It all started when, in 2013, a Thai couple broke the record for the longest kiss in the world, which they themselves had established two years earlier. 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds of constant mouth contact, which allowed them to enter the Guinness Book for the second time.
Many describe the kiss as the first sign of love between two people , even before declaring it verbally. But depending on the context, a kiss can have other meanings. And of course, human beings are not the only ones who establish certain types of social cohesion through mouth-to-mouth contact and the mixing of saliva.
Judas kisses Jesus and leaves imprinted on his face of God, the felony,
while the Magdalena with her kisses mercifully fortifies her agony.
—Excerpt from Besos , by Gabriela Mistral.
The kiss of the primates
We, as primate animals, are in this list of five kissing animals. Our close cousins, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans , also use kissing, along with other behaviors we share, as a way of showing affection.
Among chimpanzees, kissing doesn’t just happen when there’s romantic interest. As in the human species, these great primates often use this gesture as a means of showing affection and protection , like a mother towards her children.
Among bonobos, it may happen that the mother is particularly jealous of her offspring, and interferes in their love life, aggressively refusing kisses from suitors they do not consider suitable for her young or, otherwise, acting as matchmakers .
But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.
—Excerpt from In the bleak midwinter by Christina Rossetti
Other functions of kisses in the social cohesion of primates are to strengthen reconciliation after a conflict , and a way of expressing submission . With some frequency, the subjects kiss the hands, feet, neck or chest of the leader of their clan.
The lick of dogs and wolves
Anyone who has had one of these furry as a pet knows how affectionate they can be. Despite the limited mobility of their lips, dogs are capable of kissing , only they do it in a different way: with their tongues – and sometimes, a good dose of saliva. Don’t forget to wash after your pet’s kiss!
We end up knowing that flowers feed
in the fertile humidity. That is the truth of saliva.
—Excerpt from The Kiss , by José Saramago
But in addition to kissing their human owner, dogs also kiss other dogs . They lick their snouts, and not only out of affection —that too—, but with other intentions.
The dog’s sense of taste, like that of smell, is much more developed than ours. Every time a dog licks something, it takes in the flavors of everything it has recently touched. In this way, he not only expresses his appreciation for his partner —two or four-legged— with that gesture, but also records where and with whom he has been .
Another of the functions of the dog’s kiss, as in the previous case, is submission . It is relatively common for a dog to recognize his dominant by licking his nose.
This behavior is not exclusive to our companions, they have inherited it from their wild ancestors. Wolves also kiss each other .
The many kisses of the dolphins
Kissing is part of the normal social interaction of dolphins. But we are not only talking about kisses on the mouth, they often brush their noses or give small and affectionate nibbles to their friends or their lovers on the back, belly, fins and other parts of the body .
The sea kissing the sand,
with his lips he makes it whole.
With his torrent of water he touches her,
with his kiss of water he goes wild.
—Excerpt from The Kiss of the Sea , by María P. Gallo
In fact, to the extreme of what we could consider a kiss, oral sex between dolphins is common. This behavior can reach oral-genital penetration . Thanks to the fact that the dolphin’s snout is elongated, and both males and females have their reproductive organs inside a cavity, this behavior can be expressed by both males and females.
The ‘piquitos’ of the flamingos
Flamingos are gregarious animals that live in huge flocks.
When mating time arrives, pairs form and display a whole repertoire of behaviors, including caresses, games, dances —particularly striking those performed with their long necks— and, of course, kisses .
You make me fly
with each caress,
—Excerpt from You make me fly , by María Mercedes Castro
, in this case it is also a reinterpretation of what we humans understand by kiss. Birds do not have lips with which to make the sucking gesture, but they do make contact with their beaks .
That kind of contact, with their young, is the way to feed them . In this case, the flamingos use their red crop milk , a nutritional fluid analogous to the milk of mammals, which they produce in their digestive system.
Ants, nourishing kisses
If there’s one animal that takes kissing to the next level, it’s the ant. As far as we know, he does not express affection or love for his fellows, but he does express a strong loyalty and fidelity, which is biologically determined . In maintaining this unbreakable cohesion, the gestures that we can consider “kisses” fulfill an essential mission.
Forgive her though.
return to those kisses like honey.
Ester was loyal to you, she was constant
and all his life he was faithful to you
Excerpt from Forgive Her , by Les Luthiers
Some ants never make it out of the nest. They live in the shade all their lives, and therefore depend on the rest of the colony for food . The ones that give them the food carry it partially digested, stored inside their body and regurgitate it in the form of a small drop . The ants then give each other that “kiss”, which entomologists call trophallaxis , in which nutrients are exchanged.
Certain types of workers are also responsible for feeding the larvae , and they do so through the same process. An exchange of fluids from mouth to mouth, which does not go with affection and love, but with nutrients, but which also increases the cohesion of their relationships and, ultimately, of their society .
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