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Wild Things

The weird and wonderful in the natural world

Sarah Zielinski

Wild Things


Wild Things

The animal guide to finding love

black-and-white snub-nosed monkeys

Looking for love? The right appearance is important. Female black-and-white snub-nosed monkeys seem to prefer guys with rouged lips.

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Are you feeling the pressure of Valentine’s Day and in need of advice on how to find someone special? The animal world has some advice for you.

Make sure you look nice.

There’s no need to go for an entire makeover, but looking your best is usually a good idea when on the search for a partner. Male black-and-white snub-nosed monkeys appear to have taken a lesson from Revlon — they go for the rouge-lipped look during the mating season. Those with bright, red lips tend to be surrounded by females.

SMOOTH MOVES A peacock spider performs a dance to woo a mate. Peacockspiderman/YouTube

Learn to dance …

As anyone who has ever watched John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever knows, having the right dance moves can make finding a mate easier. For some animals, it’s essential. That’s true for male peacock spiders, which raise colorful flaps on their behinds and wave them while lifting their third legs in an adorable dance aimed at luring a mate. And if a guy doesn’t have the best moves or try hard enough, females don’t just reject him — they get aggressive.

… and how to flirt.

Even if you’re an expert dancer, you’ll probably need to do at least a little flirting. It may be a bit more subtle than torrent frogs, though, who turn flirting into a big production. A male frog will get a female’s attention by first calling out and puffing up his vocal sacs. Then he’ll shake his hands and feet and wiggle his toes. If he’s successful, the female will let him know with a special call.

Attend a party.

The best place to put all of this on display is, of course, a party! And there are parties everywhere, even at the bottom of the ocean. Scientists exploring a seamount off the Pacific coast of Panama in 2015 found an enormous party of small, red crabs swarming all over each other. Such large aggregations are common among crab species and may be linked to reproduction.

Practice, practice, practice.

Once you’ve landed a partner, you might want to serenade him or her with the perfect love song. But first you’ll need to practice, just like great reed warblers (probably) do. Males spend their entire winter vacation singing the songs they seem to use to woo the ladies come spring. All that singing cuts into time the guys could spend foraging for food or resting, but that practice might pay off because female warblers prefer males that sing more complex tunes.

Keep an eye on the competition.

You may not be the only one interested in your partner, so make like a peacock and check out your competition. Peacocks fan out their feathers to lure the ladies, but females only pay attention to what’s happening at the bottom of the show, studies have revealed. Males do likewise, keeping their gaze tuned to the bottom of the competition’s display.

Bring a gift.

You probably don’t need to worry that your partner will go cannibal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a hint from a species where that does happen. When approaching a female, male nursery spiders are smart to bring a gift of a big dead insect wrapped up in silk. The gift will not only keep the female busy while the male mates with her, but it can also double as a shield if she sees him as a potential meal rather than a mate.

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