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Eight Animals That Mate for Life

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Humans in many cultures like to think of themselves as a faithful species, but when it comes to true fidelity, many other animals offer better examples of how to keep a relationship together. Although monogamy and lifelong pair bonds are generally rare in the animal kingdom, eight animals pull it off.

1. Swans
Swans form monogamous pair bonds that last for many years, and in some cases, these can last for life. Their loyalty to their mates is so storied that the image of two swans swimming with their necks entwined in the shape of a heart has become a nearly universal symbol of true love.

2. Black Vultures
Good looks are not a prerequisite to a faithful relationship. In fact, black-vulture society makes sure of that; they’ve been known to attack other vultures that have been caught philandering!

3. Wolves
Often portrayed as tricksters and con artists in popular folklore, wolves have a family life that is actually more loyal and pious than most human relationships. Normally, packs consist of a male, a female, and their offspring, essentially making wolf packs akin to a nuclear family.

4. Albatrosses
An albatross may fly great distances over the oceans, but despite its extensive travels, this bird will always return to the same place and the same partner when it’s time to breed. Pair bonds between males and females form over several years and will last for a lifetime, cemented through the use of goofy but affectionate ritual dances.

5. Turtledoves

There’s a reason that turtledoves come in pairs of two in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. These emblems of love and faithfulness have even inspired poetry in Shakespeare, being the subject of his poem The Phoenix and the Turtle.

6. Bald Eagles
They’re the national emblem of the United States, and when it comes to maintaining relationships these birds soar much higher than the country they symbolize. Bald eagles typically mate for life, except in the event of their partner’s death or impotency—a number that’s far lower than America’s divorce rate, which now exceeds 50 percent.

7. Schistosoma Mansoni Worms
They may not offer the conventional image of love, but these parasitic worms are usually far more faithful than the humans they inhabit. As unromantic as it sounds, they cause the disease schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever. When they reproduce sexually within the human body, they form loyal, monogamous pair bonds that typically last the entire cycle.

8. Gibbons
Gibbons are the nearest relatives to humans that mate for life. They form extremely strong pair bonds and exhibit low sexual dimorphism, which means that males and females of the species are of roughly equal size, a testament to the fact that both sexes are on relatively equal footing in their relationships.

Originally published on Care2

Updated on March 19, 2011


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