Some animals will go to great lengths to get the girl by engaging in all manner of weird and wonderful mating rituals
Flamingos flirt in huge synchronised groups
Given their bright colouring, flamingos should have few problems getting noticed by the opposite sex, but to make sure, the adults go through an elaborate mating ritual. They gather to dance in large groups that can range from a few dozen to hundreds of individuals. The flamingo dancers coordinate their mate-luring moves.
First, they preen their feathers together and spread oil over their wings. Then they engage in a dance that includes lots of head-turning from side to side, beaks lifted up in the air. It can also include a mating march as the birds walk at speed in a tight-knit group in synchronised directions. Sometimes they combine head and wing movements; other times they move just their head or just their wings. The wing-leg stretch is a favourite, with the flamingo stretching a wing and a leg from one side of its body. When a female has chosen a male, the pair will walk away from the flamboyance in order to mate, before constructing a nest and protecting the solitary egg that is laid. The birds will help each other care for the offspring.
It can also include a mating march as the birds walk at speed in a tight-knit group in synchronised directions
Salmon swim miles to find a romantic spot
Salmon go to great lengths to mate, swimming thousands of miles to return to the stream where they were born. As they reach fresh water, their bodies undergo significant changes. The males may grow a hump, gain canine teeth or develop a kype (a curvature of the jaw). In both sexes, the stomach begins to disintegrate in order to make room for developing eggs or sperm. When the males arrive at their destination, they fight with other salmon while females dig their nests. The males spawn with several females but shortly after mating, both the male and female salmon die.
Scorpions dance with their mate
To find a mate, male scorpions use vibrations, which are picked up by females, while females use pheromones to attract males. Once together, they embark on a complex courtship, starting with a dance called the ‘promenade à deux’. The pair move backwards and forwards for up to an hour, giving the male a chance to fertilise the female. She then tilts herself up as if performing a handstand – this is a cue for the male to scarper. Scorpions are cannibalistic and females have been known to catch and eat their mates.
Great grey shrikes thrill with a kill
The great grey shrike impales its prey on something sharp, typically barbed wire or thorns, which allows its meal to stay in place while the bird tears into the flesh with its beak. But scientists have discovered that the pattern of impaling has a secondary purpose: it helps the birds show off their health to potential mates. Scientists collecting data in western Poland found males not only tended to impale their prey in more visible spots during the mating season but also built up a larger collection of impaled victims. As well as indicating the good state of their health, this behaviour served to highlight their hunting prowess, making them more desirable to females.
males not only tended to impale their prey in more visible spots during the mating season but also built up a larger collection of impaled victims.
The males that build up large stashes of prey tend to mate earlier and bear more offspring. There has also been evidence of males sharing their food with females. Outside of mating season, the amount of stored and visibly impaled prey falls.
Bighorn sheep fight for the affection of the ladies
Humans sometimes fight over love, usually in the street after a night in the pub. But while that behaviour rarely impresses people, it often works for animals. Lions, kangaroos and gorillas all get aggressive over mates, but few go to the extremes of the male bighorn sheep. These rams have large, curved horns that can grow to more than 90 centimetres (three feet) long. They are effective deterrents against predators, but also come in handy when the rams go in search of ewes and fight ferociously with one another to establish a hierarchy. The rams face each other, draw back and then charge. They reach speeds of around 32 kilometres (20 miles) per hour, hitting their heads together with a loud crack of their large, bony skulls. The animals can continue the butting contest for up to a day, until the weaker ram retreats.
Fireflies like to be flash
Fireflies are known for their amazing ability to produce and emit light, a process called bioluminescence. A study by the University of Connecticut in 2010 showed that the insects can use their enticing glow to flirt.
The researchers noted that synchronised flashes of the Photinus firefly’s neon lights help males and females indicate a mutual attraction and find each other. The males congregate in groups of around ten and advertise their availability to females resting within the trees, shrubs and grasses. Each species of firefly has a specific pattern of flashing; females are able to instantly pick up on their own species and respond with the same pattern to invite them over. It is common for a few fireflies to seek one responding female but she will choose the male she likes the most.
By gathering in numbers, the males are more likely to be noticed than if a firefly was simply flashing alone, even though it also intensifies competition. Photinus fireflies live for just two weeks as adults and spend their entire time courting and mating.