Love, Naturally

Photograph by Expeditieteam Aldabra/ Foto Natura/Minden Pictures
Photograph by Tim Laman/National Geographic Society/Corbis
Photograph by Scott Leslie/Minden Pictures/Corbis
Spacebirdy/Wikimedia Commons
Photograph by Pete Oxford/NPL/Minden Pictures
Heidi Schuyt/Flickr Creative Commons
Photograph by Tim Laman/National Geographic Creative
Photograph by Norbert Wu/Minden Pictures
Photograph by Thomas Wiewandt

Love, Naturally

10 Amazing Ways Animals Woo a Mate

By Simone M. Scully
Published: 02/14/2014

Love can be tough, and there are plenty of examples in nature to prove it. Capuchin monkeys throw stones to get a date; some male marsupials kill themselves with too much rigorous sex; praying mantises routinely risk losing their heads. In honor of this Valentine’s Day holiday, here are 10 animals’ tricks for attracting that special someone.

1. Show Your Heart

Photograph by Expeditieteam Aldabra/ Foto Natura/Minden Pictures
 

Male frigate birds use giant throat sacs resembling heart-shaped balloons to attract their mates. They inflate the sacs while waggling their heads, shaking their wings, and calling to a female. Only the male with the biggest display will get the girl.

Similar to frigates, hooded seals blow up the crimson ‘hood’ on their nose and wobble it around to display their “manliness” to the females and to scare away rivals. But their red balloons seem to lack the same heart.

2. Dance to Impress

Photograph by Tim Laman/National Geographic Society/Corbis
 

Who doesn’t love a man who can dance? Female manakins surely do, and their boys know it. These confidently, colored Casanovas turn branches into dance floors where they “moonwalk” to catch the eye of a lady. They also make loud buzzes and snapping sounds to make themselves further stand out. Alpha males have the home court advantage, and they usually win the love match.

Check out this little guy’s Michael Jackson moves:

See video
A male manakin shows off his dance skills to impress his potential mate
 

3. Add a Dash of Danger

Photograph by Scott Leslie/Minden Pictures/Corbis
 

Having trouble getting a date? Well, if all else fails, you can try a scare tactic. That is the way of the male water strider. Female water striders don’t always accept advances easily. In fact, they like to keep things modest with a genital shield that acts like a chastity belt. As a result, the males often hurry things along by tapping their legs against the water surface. The tapping lures predatory fish, so the quicker she gives in, the less likely she will be eaten—especially since the male mounts her while she floats on the surface, making her the one most at risk of becoming fish food.

4. Be Ready to Fight

See video
Two flatworms "penis-fencing" to determine who will be impregnated
 

Motherhood can be challenging, which is why flatworms fight for up to an hour to decide who has to carry their burdensome bundle. These aquatic sea slugs are hermaphrodites, having both male and female reproductive systems. To avoid being the one impregnated, the two flatworms duel (or “penis fence,” as scientists put it.) They use their dagger-like penises to try to stab each other while avoiding being stabbed themselves. When one gets struck on their underside, the sperm is absorbed through their skin, making the loser the mother. The winner—dad—will then leisurely swim off, enjoying his hard-earned victory.

5. Kiss with Passion

Spacebirdy/Wikimedia Commons
 

What’s better than a kiss? White-Fronted parrots are one of the few creatures known to kiss mouth-to-mouth as part of courting. For the male, the kiss is so passionate that it gets him incredibly aroused—so much so that he vomits straight into her mouth. The female, in turn, usually accepts his “gift” as a sign of intimacy. (Yummy!)

6. Tell the World You’re an Item

Photograph by Pete Oxford/NPL/Minden Pictures
 

Those that love each other, smell like each other. At least, that appears to be the case for one endangered species of lemur, the Coquerel’s sifakas, according to a new study in Animal Behavior. These lemurs are known to use scent to communicate. Their individualized odors can be used to mark territory and advertise their sex and fertility. Each lemur spreads its scent by dabbing sticky secretions from glands on their throats and genital areas on trees for others to check out and even lick. The researchers discovered that the Coquerel Sifakas of the Duke Lemur Center started to mirror the scent-marking behavior of their partners. Once they became parents themselves, chemical analyses of their scents showed that the pair developed similar aromas. While the exact reason for this is still unclear, researchers theorize that their “in-sync” smells help the pair advertise their relationship or bolster their ability to mark territory together.

7. Shower Her with Love

Heidi Schuyt/Flickr Creative Commons
 

Love can be pretty ‘prickly’ for porcupines, which is why interested males have figured out a way to shower their valentines with love from afar. They simply stand up on their hind legs, waddle up to a safe distance of six feet, and pee in her direction, completely drenching her from head to foot. If she’s not into it, she’ll scream (who wouldn’t?) and shake herself dry. But if she likes Romeo’s shower, she’ll expose her quill-less underbelly and let her lover mount her. If he wins, though, he’s in for one long lovemaking session. The female will expect him to mate with her numerous times until he is exhausted and she is satiated. If he lacks the endurance to fully satisfy her, she’ll just go look for another guy to give her more lovin’.

This might seem like a weird way to say “I love you,” but porcupines aren’t the only ones to use bodily functions to show affection. Female giraffes urinate in the male’s mouth before mating so the male can determine if she’s “the one” and male hippos will flick feces at females to show their interest.

8. Build a Home Together

Photograph by Tim Laman/National Geographic Creative
 

Bowerbirds know that the way to their love’s heart is to create a beautiful home. This Australian bird builds a “bower” for his girl out of twigs, then decorates the place with a variety of objects to please her, including feathers, stones, flowers and even bits of plastic, glass and other knickknacks. He will painstakingly choose and arrange objects into a pile, often sticking to one color, like blue, in order to build the prettiest “bachelor pad.” Females will pick their mate based on which male has the best interior design skills. Sometimes jealous males will cheat by stealing pretty things from a rival bowerbird’s pile.

9. Get Lost in Your Lover

Photograph by Norbert Wu/Minden Pictures
 

In the dark, deep ocean, it can be hard to find anything, let alone a mate. This is why anglerfish have evolved a unique solution to their problem. Males are born tiny and without any digestive system. Finding a female is a matter of life and death for them. When he locates a lover, he bites her, releasing an enzyme that digests his skin and merges them together, literally making the two become one. Their circulatory systems merge. She provides him with nourishment while he provides her with ready access to sperm. Over time, the male becomes nothing but a lump on the female’s body.

10. If All Else Fails…

Photograph by Thomas Wiewandt
 

Sex in the wild can be a risky, scary thing. One asexual lizard tries to skip it altogether, resorting to cloning instead. Some whiptail lizard species, native to Mexico and the southern United States, are only females. As a result, reproduction, called “parthenogenesis,” involves a simulated mating ritual where the females take turns biting and mounting each other. Scientists theorize that this stimulates egg production in both lizards. When the eggs hatch, they are all genetic copies of their mother.

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Simone M. Scully

Simone M. Scully is a reporter at Audubon Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @ScullySimone

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine