|Elk, Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons|
from Wildlife Promise
Going out on a Valentine’s Day date? Chances are you’ll dress up to look top-notch for the one you’re courting. Similarly, nature gussies up many of her species for courtship purposes.
Consider the antlers of buck deer or bull elk or the mating plumage of male songbirds, ducks and peafowl. All of these points are important to attracting a mate, plus they can scare off competitors. Like a pricey power suit, bright plumage, antlers, bright spots on a bird’s bill or a lizard’s throat, say to potential mates, “Look at me and be awed. I’m strong and healthy enough to put energy into growing these doodads. I’m powerful and skilled.”
More generally, species-specific colors and appendages—a robin’s red breast, or a male mountain gorilla’s silver back—say, “Make no mistake about it, I’m a member of such and such gender, and I’m a dazzling example of our species, so what’s not to like?”
|Gorilla, Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons|
|Rook, Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons|
Valentine’s Day is a prime gift-giving holiday, part merchandizing ploy and part courtship. But giving gifts to prospective or actual mates is not uniquely human.
Bonobo (a.k.a. pygmy chimpanzee) males sometimes offer fruit to females with which they want to mate. Many male spiders present dead insects to prospective mates, in part to keep the indiscriminately predatory females from eating the suitors. In some spider species, males wrap an insect gift in silk webbing so the female will be preoccupied with unwrapping it, further enhancing the males’ odds of escaping the mating process alive. (The males of at least one spider species give females just a wad of empty silk—ladies beware).
|Bonobo, Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons|
|Bowerbird, Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons|
|Red-Winged Blackbird, Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons|
Birds, like this peacock, commonly use their feathers for challenging rivals and attracting mates... Dancing occurs in most human cultures. In some cases, men and women even perform separate, gender-specific dances they watch one another do, the perfect chance to get a measure of one another’s physical fitness. Birds are riding that bandwagon, too...
|Peacock, Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons|
Thanks so much for tuning in to my weekly Wildlife Wednesday series, and make sure to tune in next week for my answer to a nature-related "Ask a Zookeeper" question!
Hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day, everyone!