The Lessons In Courtship We Can Learn From Animal



Most male mice are happy with just a short moment of passion – a quick knee-trembler behind the skirting board with a partner, and then he’s off. But a male Californian Mouse is the opposite: he seems a perfect mouse-husband who stays in to help groom and feed his mousewife, bringing her water, doing the housework and helping to look after their babies.Proof that he’s fallen head over paws in love? No, simply that the clever female has drugged him.She produces hormones in her urine that he finds intoxicating. Something in his brain is triggered by the scent, and he becomes her slave, working to exhaustion.Sound familiar? It should do. Because love is a drug for humans, too. When we fall in love, our brains swim with opioids – a natural intoxicant from the same class of chemical as heroin – and similarly addictive


Good news, chaps. Whatever your partner may tell you, the human male’s genitalia are some of the biggest in the animal kingdom in relation to our body size.Gorillas, mighty as they are, are endowed with only one and a half inches. Lions, which mate up to a hundred times a day, have only a little stump to work with.But we are still tiny compared to some animals. The blue whale has an eight footer – big by any standards.But the record should go to… the tiny barnacle who can extend his appendage to reach a mate from a distance several times his own body size.Perhaps, though, before we get too obsessed by size, we should remember the anglerfish. The male anglerfish is tiny compared to the female – not much more than a little worm.If he finds a mate, he attaches himself like a parasite, and withers away, until nothing is left but a pair of gonads. Not a good end to a Valentine’s Day encounter.


In Costa Rica, high in a tree, a howler monkey is courting his beloved. He waggles his tongue at her. She give him a quick tongue flick back. He waggles it at her again, but even more vigorously.Soon they are sitting on the branch, facing each other, a few feet apart, staring into each other’s eyes, waggling tongues like mad. It is French kissing without touching.Eventually they stop, turn, and both stare wistfully into the sunset. Why? Well, as every teenager knows, true love starts with a decent snog.


Male fireflies advertise their desire for love with a flashing light. A chemical reaction in their bottom sends a bright beacon to any females around.Once the lady firefly is paying attention, the suitor starts to communicate through a sort of morse-code, and a lengthy courtship dialogue ensues. As far as the females are concerned, the chattier the better; longer and more frequent pulses of light get better mating results for the males.But the real problem comes from another species of firefly – a male that mimics the female, and gives out the same flirtatious response.Male fireflies, assuming they have got lucky, fly to their new love, and are immediately gobbled up. The lesson here? Love is a high risk game.


Dressing up for a date is one thing, but changing your physical appearance to battle off the other men, or to attract the girls, can go too far.The extinct Giant Elk, for example, eventually grew such long antlers that they couldn’t fit between trees in their native habitat and so consequently died out.


Slugs are hermaphrodites – they have both male and female sex organs. But in southern Britain, most slugs still reproduce by cuddling up in a slimy way with another slug. In other words, it still takes two to tango.But the further north you go, the more likely it is that slugs will self-fertilise, without the need for a partner at all. It is thought that in the colder temperatures, this form of reproduction helps conserve precious energy.Such self-love comes at a cost, though. The resulting offspring of northern slugs are genetically weaker, and less varied, than that of southern slugs.


Think your man’s bad at flirting? A male elephant looking for love has mucus oozing from his cheeks and and he gives off a smell that can be picked up half a mile away.He is said to be ‘in musth’, a phase that lasts for month or two life every year. The word musth is derived from a Persian word meaning drunk.It’s easy to see why – the male elephants become very aggressive and obsessed with sex, probably as a result of their high testosterone levels, which can increase by up to 60 times.Safari owners know how dangerous this can be, with randy males often venting pent-up passion (or aggression) on passing cars they have mistaken for a prospective partner.


Mexican free-tailed bats take animal love songs to a new level. Scientist in Texas have decoded chirps, buzzes and trills, into syllables and phrases used to attract females and warn off to other males.Barely audible to the human ear, these bat sounds are used in different combinations during courtship, like a song’s lyrics.Giant Pandas sing ‘love songs’, too. Male Giant Pandas blurt out a variety of barks, moans, honks, roars, growls and squeals when looking for a partner.Female pandas also use their own chirps, snorts and chomps that convey information about their ages – and unlike some female singers today, they never seem to lie about it.Good news, though, ladies. Young male pandas actually prefer older females to mate with, enjoying the more experienced seductress.


Humans aren’t the only species to form lasting relationships. Arctic terns mate for life.Indeed, they travel between the poles to breed each year – more than 40,000 miles – so it’s important to choose the right partner. How do they go about it? Their courtship is elaborate, starting with a ‘high flight’, where the female chases the male.Then a ‘fish flight’, where the male offers a tasty meal, after which they go onto the ground for a lot of tail raising and wing lowering. It’s the perfect date: excitement, a meal, followed by dirty dancing.Snow geese, swans and many other birds are also loyal partners to the end.Swans have been given MRI scans while being shown pictures of their loved ones.Different parts of the brain glowed with pleasure. Scientists compared swans’ MRIs to human couples who have enjoyed long and happy relationships.When the people were shown pictures of their partners, the same parts of the brain lit up on their MRI scans.


Yes, the male Preying Mantis really does give up his life for a once-in-a-lifetime date.After a brief exchange of pleasantries, things get going, and the predatory female starts munching away at the male, starting with his head. Soon she’s working her way down his body.Despite this, the lower parts of the male continue working well – in fact, better.Cannibalised males mate for longer, fertilise more of the eggs, and females are more likely to reject subsequent partners.As with some human males, then, functional use of the brain is sacrificed to the needs of down below.Still, it does show that the way to a girl’s heart really can be through her stomach. Happy Valentine’s Day, whatever your species!



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ruby
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:04:25

    Kinky Dolphins! heheee


  2. joe
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:04:55

    Now I know why my ex and I were incompatible, he was a big hairy ape and I am a graceful swan!

    Lovely pic of the panda’s.


  3. M
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:05:23

    Ahhh this has given me such a lovely feeling, which is required after reading about those cheating egotistical fools!! Made my day.


  4. KATE
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:05:51

    Wow, love the picture of the pandas, makes me all warm and fuzzy. Female praying mantis…. remind you of anyone?


  5. sammy
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:06:55

    I wouldn’t mind a cuddle from a Panda either, valentines or otherwise. They are so beautiful.


  6. jane
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:07:23

    Oh those panda’s are sooooo sweet could cuddle them.


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