If you’re looking for the animal mating ritual that most closely resembles human dating, don’t look to primates, even mammals, instead, check out the albatross. These massive seabirds take a long time to reach sexual maturity –up to 10 years in some species, but they certainly don’t make up for it by rushing into a relationship. When they first start coming to the breeding colonies, young birds sit back and learn from their elders, observing the specie’s elaborate mating rituals that include dancing, preening, staring, pointing, and vocalizations. After years of trial and error, the birds learn to participate in these mating rituals. They will then start dancing with many partners, but year after year, they will trim down their dance card until they have selected the one partner they want to be with for the rest of their lives.
Once the partner is chosen, the pair will develop their own unique language comprised of bits of their mating ritual. Interestingly, once they have mated, they will never use most of the ritual again. While it seems like a massive undertaking, egg laying and chick rearing is a major time investment for albatrosses and the couples do everything they can to ensure they will be a successful mating pair.
While most birds are monogamous, few are quite as dependent on their mates as the female hornbill is on the male. The couple gets in the mood by singing duets together. The male starts the tune, then the female jumps in and the calls then join in unison. The pair will occupy a large nest inside the hollow of a massive tree. Once the eggs are laid and fertilized, the female will then seal herself in the nest. The male will then provide food for her and her chicks through a small hole in the nest. This goes on for about two months, then the female will leave the nest, sealing up the chicks inside. The mother and father will then take turns bringing the chicks food until they are grown enough to break the seal and survive on their own.
Of course lovebirds belong on this list, just look at their name. But what makes this specific parrot species so darn romantic that they are often given as wedding presents to symbolize the couple’s lifelong commitment to one another? Like most birds, lovebirds are monogamous, but its their habit of sitting beside another and cuddling that has made them such a strong image of love. Their tight pairings led the ancient Greeks to believe the birds would die if they lost their mates.
The peach-faced lovebirds find a partner when they are two months old. The female fluffs up her feathers to tell the male that she is interested and he then starts to perform a courtship dance that involves bobbing his head and scratching her head.
Once the couple lays eggs, the female will incubate the nest while the male goes out to get her food. When the chicks hatch, the dad gets the food, feeds it to the mother who then regurgitates the meal for the chicks.
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All cranes are monogamous and they all have their own intricate mating dances, but the brogla’s are particularly fascinating. They mate with their partners every year, often in the same nesting area, but no matter how long they’ve been together, they always keep the passion flowing, performing their intricate mating dance every year. Just how complex is this ritual? Well, there is a reason it is considered the most elaborate mating dance in the animal kingdom.
The dances generally start with a bird picking up a clump of grass and tossing it in the air and catching it in its mouth. Then the dance starts to involve jumping, extending wings, stretching bowing, walking calling and head bobbing. Sometimes only one bird will dance, sometimes a pair will dance together, in other situations, the whole colony will jump in, starting up a massive brogla dance club.
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You may already know that male seahorses are the ones who carry the litter, but did you know they go through an intimate courtship first? They hold tails, swim snout to snout and change colors to show one another that they are ready for romance. This process can last for days before the pair engages in a courtship dance that lasts up to eight hours.
Once the male is pregnant, the female sticks around until he gives birth. She visits him every morning, holding his tail, changing colors and flirting with him to ensure that he will continue to nurture the eggs until they hatch.
Source Image via San Diego Shooter [Flickr]
These slimy garden pests may not seem too romantic, particularly when you consider the fact that they are hermaphrodites, but they just may have inspired the Greek tales of cupid. Although snails are hermaphrodites, they require another partner to lay eggs. Their courtship process largely comes down to the animals circling one another and firing off “love darts” at each other, one third of which miss the target. The mucus-covered darts stimulate the animal’s female reproductive organs so they can hold more sperm. Once the darts are in place, the partners trade sperm cells for as long as six hours.
Next time you hear stories of the arrow-shooting cherub, just imagine a giant snail shooting darts before copulation. For some reason it’s just not as good of a Valentine’s Day card though.
Source Image via nutmeg66 [Flickr]
Most rodents are far from romantic, but the prairie vole is one of a handful of monogamous creatures that fall under the title. The male voles will move in with their first girlfriend and stick with her for the rest of their lives. During mating season, they will mark their territory and defend it from any trespassers by chattering its teeth and raising its arms. The male is particularly aggressive towards females who attempt to enter the territory and will even attack potential home wreckers. The happy couple will not only share pup-raising, but also groom each other and huddle together for warmth.
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While the other animals on this list are romantic in their monogamous relationships, bonobos are romantic in an entirely different manner. These primates copulate while facing each other and to participate in open mouth kissing. If the other creatures represent our ideal life-long bond of romance, bonobos personify our most popular forms of physical intimacy. I think it’s important we look at these factors too. After all, we don’t just fall in love, we also “make love.”
Source Image via CourtneyBolton [Flickr]
I don’t know about all of you, but this article sure put me in a romantic mood. Who needs wine and roses when you can dance like a crane, sing like an albatross and shoot love darts like a snail?
They also mate for life.