Sick and tired of hearing the whining from your single friends about how hard the dating scene is? Had it up to here with your girlfriend wearing her calming facemask to bed and your boyfriend’s total disregard for manscaping? Well maybe we humans should really be thanking our lucky evolutionary stars that our mating rituals are even moderately more advanced than the animals around us.
1. A Frigatebird, aka The Show Off
Photo courtesy of Jasoncorriveau (cc)
Although the female frigatebird is pretty unremarkable looking, the male frigatebird has developed a snazzy way of attracting his Plain Jane counterpart’s eye. During mating season, the male frigatebird can inflate his throat sac into a huge, heart-shaped balloon. He then proceeds to nod his head from side to side and flaps his wings to draw the attention of the surrounding females so the ladies can check out how great he looks.
And if that isn’t enough bragging, he also shields his partner’s eyes during mating to make sure she can’t check out any of the other male birds strutting their enlarged-throat-sac-stuff around her.
These birds can be found on the shores of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and in the South Atlantic Ocean. (But not, surprisingly, on the Jersey Shore.)
2. The Garter Snake, aka The Polyamorous Lover
Garter snakes are independent from birth, but that doesn’t mean the females don’t want a good dose of male attention when mating season rolls around. Once the female garter snake emerges from hibernation and is ready to mate, she releases a pheromone that attracts the male garter snakes; the only problem is they usual come hundreds at a time! The female is totally undiscerning, and usually ends up on the bottom of a squirming, churning “mating ball.”
And to make matters even more complicated, male garter snakes are blessed with two penises, one on either side of their body. Males also occasionally, and for no clear reason, excrete the same pheromone that the females do and find themselves on the bottom of a mating ball … but without the ability to mate. What teases!
Want to spot one of these mating free-for-alls? Garter snakes can be found across North America, from Canada to northern Central America.
3. The Hippopotamus, aka The Frat Boy
Photo courtesy of Irigi (cc)
In life, male hippos, who roam the rivers and lakes of Sub-Saharan Africa, are generally chock-full of misplaced aggression. And nothing different can really be said about their mating rituals.
When the male hippo knows there are females around to impress, he defecates and urinates on himself (to put it politely) while swinging around his tail to make a kind of makeshift poop propeller.
Hippo ladies: does this really do it for you? You must be pretty easy gals to please.
4. The Bowerbird, aka the Homemaker
Photo courtesy of Mbz1 (cc)
The male Bowerbird can be found throughout Northern Australia and New Guinea making very special nests to woo female Bowerbirds to move in for the mating season. In order to jazz up their otherwise drab nests (so many neutrals!), the male Bowerbirds decorate their nests with colorful treasures like feathers, flowers, berries, shells, plastic, metal trash, etc. found in their environment.
What is exceptionally special, though, is that the Bowerbird has an incredible eye for color, and he only chooses items in a matchy-matchy, single-color palette to adorn his nest.
After hours of tireless work by the male, the female chooses the nest she likes the best, unpacks her bags, and settles in for the season.
5. The Dolphin, aka The Pre-Teen Boy
Although dolphins are unquestionably one of the smartest animals in the world, male dolphins are whole-heartedly undiscerning and exhibit little self-control when it comes to all things mating, arguably similar to males of our own species.
Unlike many animals, dolphins often mate for pleasure and not just for reproduction. During these frequent matings, male dolphins initiate sex multiple times, probably because each mating lasts for an average of only twelve seconds.
But the male dolphin’s sex drive is not only reserved for females of its own species. Males often attempt to mate with dolphins of other species and have been known to hump everything from inanimate objects, to passing sea turtles, to unassuming divers. Dolphins can be found worldwide swimming in shallow seas, so divers watch your back.
6. Whiptail Lizard, aka The Role Player
Photo courtesy of Paul and Jill (cc)
Whiptail Lizards (luckily or unluckily) don’t need a male for reproduction because there are actually no males at all in the species.
What’s more, in order to stimulate egg production, these lady-lizards need other lady-lizards to simulate the act of sex. So before they can reproduce, one female acts out the role of a male and mounts the female and then they switch so both can produce eggs!
And when the whiptail lizards’ eggs hatch, the baby lizards are exact clones of the females since they only received one set of DNA. If you want to spot some of these ladies in action, the whiptail lizard can be found in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and also in California and northern Mexico.
7. The Queen Bee, aka The Man Eater
Photo courtesy of Migco (cc)
Before the queen bee becomes the Queen Bee, she is raised in style, living in the exclusive “virgin queen cell” where she lounges with other queen bee hopefuls and her every need is met by lowly worker bees. After intense competition, one of the virgin bees rises above the rest to become the one and only Queen Bee. Her next task is to fly out of the hive in order to mate with ten to fifteen male drone bees.
Unfortunately, for the drones, during this mating flight the genitals of the drone explode and snap off inside the Queen Bee. While the unassuming (and clearly heartless) Queen Bee continues on to select the next promising drone to mate with, the injured drone falls out of the sky and, mercifully, dies immediately.
One (small) consolation for the drone is that his reproductive organs will stay inside the queen, supplying her with sperm for the remaining years of her life.
This twisted mating ritual can be spotted all over the world since bees are found on every continent except Antarctica.
8. The Superb Bird of Paradise, aka The Desperate to Please
Photo courtesy of bob|P-&-S (cc)
There are forty Bird of Paradise species in the world that all display spectacular plumage and mating dances so bizarre and beautiful, they almost seem otherworldly. The Superb Bird of Paradise is a species that lives in the rainforest of New Guinea, and until the patient photographers from Planet Earth filmed the bird’s mating ritual, it had never been caught on tape.
In order to attract and impress a mate, a male Superb Bird of Paradise makes a loud call for all the nearby females to come watch him. When one finally shows up, the male bird is able to contort his black body into an orb shape with turquoise “eyes” and bright stripe on the bottom of his plumage. The male then jumps and dances around the female making loud ticking noises. Although this display is incredibly impressive, it doesn’t usually do the trick.
For an unknown evolutionary reason, Superb Birds of Paradise have a significantly higher population of males than they do females. This gives female Superb Birds of Paradise the luxury of being particularly picky. On average, the female will reject fifteen to twenty of these dramatic mating displays before picking just one male to mate with.
9. The Anglerfish, aka The Clingy Boyfriend or the I’m-Ready-to-Settle Girlfriend
Shockingly, it’s pretty hard to find a mate when you look like this beauty of a fish, so it comes as no surprise that in order to secure a boyfriend, female anglerfish have to take what they can get when tiny male anglerfish swim their way.
Males are born sans digestive systems and can barely survive a short time on their own. Needing to quickly find a female fish as soon as he is born, the male bites his lady friend and secretes enzymes that fuse their two bodies together, forever binding his parasitic body to hers.
The male eventually wastes away and dies, leaving only his reproductive system for the female to access when she needs it.
The anglerfish can be found in oceans around the world, but it’s always the same ritual. Sound like any relationships you know?
Know of a good animal mating ritual we left out? Let us know what you think!
By Rachel Greenberg for NileGuide