Dating tips from the animal kingdom

From paperpariah on Flickr

Got a hot date?

If it’s with a human, you’ll probably have to rely on the classic wooing strategies: flowers, chocolates, dinner and dancing, smelling good, etc.

But in the animal kingdom, courtship often has a different flavor. I combed back through the archives of New Scientist’s Zoologger, a weekly column about extraordinary animals, and turned up some unusual techniques that other creatures use to seduce their chosen mate.

Bugs stab their sweethearts in the stomach.

Male bed bugs and bat bugs use sharp penises to stab their partners in the abdomen and deliver sperm directly into the blood. Bean weevils, who have huge and spiny penises, also lacerate their mates during sex.

Koalas use a sexy voice.

Koalas bellow to attractive females in an unusually deep voice. Their mating song, which sounds “more like a series of burps and snores,” is 20 times lower than scientists would expect the little bears to have.

Spiders give gifts – but sometimes make a fatal mistake.

Two species of South American spiders look so similar that sometimes the spiders themselves get confused. Males who offer a mating gift to the wrong kind of female often end up getting eaten instead.

Albatrosses keep an open relationship.

Once the wandering albatross grows up, it finds a partner to mate with for life. But that doesn’t mean that they’re exclusive – about 1 in 10 chicks are the product of adultery.

Flatworms try some unusual foreplay.

A hermaphroditic species of flatworm pokes another flatworm with its penis. The other flatworm pokes back. This quickly devolves into a game that experts call “penis fencing.”

Great white sharks strut their stuff.

How do great white sharks snag a girlfriend? By showing off their best deep dives, of course, while all the females gather round to watch.

Hawkfish morph into the opposite sex.

Hawkfishare born as females and then later mature into males. Too much competition from other males? Switch back to female. Lots of females hanging around? Switch back to male.

Macaques synchronize their sex schedules.

Female Assamese macaques are more likely to decide to have sex on a given day if other ladies are doing it too. That way, they can mate with who they want, instead of getting stuck with just the dominant males.

Male wasps call dibs on the hot ones.

When this Japanese wasp sees an attractive female, he flicks her on the head with his antenna. Once that happens, she’ll shrug off other males and wait for her guy.

Snakes have a massive orgy.

Red-sided garter snakes roll up into large “mating balls” with dozens of males competing for a single female.

I… think that’s a good place to end things.

Aviva Hope Rutkin is a reporter for New Scientist. Follow her on Twitter @realavivahr.


84 Responses to “Dating tips from the animal kingdom”

  1. rami ungar the writer

    I’ve heard of some interesting animal mating rituals too. There’s a tiny species of jumping spider (4mm long) that actually flips up a loose fold on its abdomen and dances with its hindlegs to attract females. There’s also a species of wasp in Australia that will battle other males to dig out and mate with females as they emerge from their underground cocoons and dig their ways out (occasionally this is violent enough to inadvertently kill a female). And birds of paradise will do very interesting mating rituals to attract a female. Depending on t he species, they may dance on the ground, hang upside down and sing, or turn into a creepy smiley face to attract a female. It’s a lot of fun to watch if you can find videos of it.

  2. Jenny

    I remember watching a video as a child about animal mating rituals and either my mum didn’t know what was on it or she thought it would get her out of explaining the birds and the bees.

    • Jenny

      What stuck with me was the wolves whose penises swelled up so they got stuck in the females, so they had to hop about until things calmed down.

  3. Rae

    I can never unsee the images you painted. If you need me, I’ll be over here shuddering in the corner.

  4. anolivedaily

    It’s weird because I used a voice that was 20 times lower than scientists would expect and that was “weird” and “not appropriate at dinner.”

  5. The Moon is a Naked Banana

    Regarding the cheating habits of the albatross – what else would you expect from an animal that is never home? Their other halves must always be calling and texting to see where they are. ‘Where are you Henry? You’re not with that snowy white bitch Marla are you?’

  6. Lady Fancifull

    Hmm, I must be a mixture of female Kaola and female spider – a deep voiced male bearing gifts of fine chocolate (not, absolutely NOT boxes of Milk Tray) will start with an advantage. The wrong gift will not lead to sudden death, but is likely to show a major error in the good taste, aesthetics and fine judgement stakes. Unless that deep voiced male can sing some of Mozart’s bass baritone arias beautifully. In which case…….I’m willing to almost forgive the crime against chocolate

  7. malcolm100

    This all smacks of the human male some how didn’t quite get it right when he took the apple, she made him her slave! Classic case of got it wrong this time…

  8. nehapsingh14

    Great content…!!!…and well if anyone is intrested to know a easy trick to gain positive energy n fight stress by simply blowing a conch…can visit the…

  9. kirizar

    My new insult for the appropriate moment: May you come back in your next life as a female Bean Weevil.

  10. Let's CUT the Crap!

    I’ve never had a lesson on the birds and the bees or spiders and snakes, until tonight. Now I sleep tonight. There’s this movie going on in my head… 😛

  11. frugoal

    Haha! Love your writing style. To end on an orgy was smart. Where does one go from there? No easy transition from an orgy to anything really.


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