Animal Valentines: 5 of Nature’s Best Flirters. By Liz Langley


Posted by Liz Langley in Weird & Wild

For some lovebirds in the animal kingdom, every day is Valentine’s Day. But how do mates win each other over?

A little flirting can go a long way … and frankly, it’s a heck of a bonding agent with a long-term partner, too. See if some of these amorous animals have any tips you can use on your valentine. (See “Valentine’s Science: Why Gauging Sexiness Is Sophisticated.”)

Rock His World  

If you want to capture his attention, hit him with a rock!

A bearded capuchin carries a stone in Brazil. Photograph by Dorothy M. Fragaszy, National Geographic Grantee

A bearded capuchin carries a stone in Brazil. Photograph by Dorothy M. Fragaszy, National Geographic Grantee

That’s the strategy of female bearded capuchin monkeys in Brazil’s Serra de Capivara National Park, which throw rocks at high-ranking males to get their attention, according to recent observations by researchers from the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil. (See video of capuchins throwing rocks.)

In two cases where the male in question was hit with the stone, he mated with the pitcher; however, there’s not enough data on the success of the females’ stone-throwing strategy to say anything definitive.

But the team noticed some throwers were more prolific than others: A female named Pedrita was responsible for 32 of the 53 rock-throwing events recorded in the study. You throw, girl! (Related: “‘Hercules’ Monkeys Lift Stones to Crack Nuts.”)

Capuchins don’t only throw stones—the monkeys also have embarrassingly familiar flirting tactics like pouting, posing, and touching the guy’s fur and running away.

Build Her a Castle

Cichlid fish that live in Lake Malawi in East Africa build sand castles or bowers as a way of impressing the ladies—and intimidating other males.

A cichlid swims in Lake Malawi, Africa. Photograph by David Wrobel, Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

A cichlid swims in Lake Malawi, Africa. Photograph by David Wrobel, Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Each of the 200 cichlid species build their castles in a slightly different shape.

The fish actually carry all that sand with their mouth (video), which should win them extra love points (if you don’t think so, you try it). (Related: “5 Animals That Are Awesome Architects.”)

Sing, Sing, Sing

Ask any teen heartthrob: The girls go nuts over good-looking singers, and the superb lyrebird is the Elvis of the feathered set.

A lyrebird sings. Photograph by Craig Dingle, Getty

A lyrebird sings. Photograph by Craig Dingle, Getty

Well, maybe a mix of Elvis and Rich Little: These astounding birds can imitate other birds’ songs, whole flocks of birds, and human sounds including crying babies, camera shutters, and chainsaws with such perfection they seem less like mimics and more like beaky tape recorders. (Video: “Bird Mimics Chainsaw, Car Alarm, and More.”)

Plus, the boys don’t skimp on the visuals: A male will build a circular “stage” up to 6.5 feet (about 2 meters) wide, where he’ll dance and manipulate his long tail feathers.

A team of Australian researchers recently found that the birds also coordinate their dances with their songs (watch a video of a lyrebird sidestep.)

Get four more of them, and it’s a billion-dollar bird boy band waiting to happen.

Stay in Harmony With Your Honey

The yellow fever mosquito is a bloodsucking agent of heinous diseases, bumpy bites … and romance.

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Photograph by Kallista Images, Getty

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Photograph by Kallista Images, Getty

A 2009 study by researchers from Cornell University on Aedes aegypti found that males and females will adjust the frequency of their wingbeats until the sounds harmonize.

Other mosquitoes do this, but in Aedes aegypti, this ”courtship duet” reached a frequency of 1,200 hertz (people hear in the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz).

It’s a surprising number, since male mosquito ears were thought to be deaf to sounds over 800 hertz (who knew mosquitoes even have ears? You’d think they’d realize how annoying they sound). (See: “Animal Pair Pictures.”)

At any rate, it’s rather sweet that something as nasty as a mosquito adjusts its tune to synch up with its mate. Let’s call it ewHarmony.

Spiff Up That Bachelor Pad

Bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea know that lots of ladies like a guy who can fix things up. The arbors, or bowers, they build to attract females are so large and elaborate they were thought to be kangaroo nests by early Australian explorers. (Related: “Australia’s Amazing Bowerbirds.”)

A male great bowerbird male shows off a pink paperclip. Photograph by Tim Laman, National Geographic

A male great bowerbird male shows off a pink paperclip. Photograph by Tim Laman, National Geographic

The structure can look like a hut made of twigs or like a hallway of two neat rows of sticks. The guys then decorate with natural materials including shells, stones, and other birds’ feathers, as well as human sundries, from clothespins to hair ties to plastic packaging. (Video: “Bowerbird Lures Female With Ring.”)

The animals even paint the inside of their literal love nests with plant matter that has color and possibly flavor; if you still think bread bowls are a pretty cool idea, imagine a love shack you can taste.

Credits: Weird & Wild

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