Wild ValentinesBy Hannah Schardt; Art by Jim Paillot
Animals may not write love poems or hand out candy. But they have their own special ways of saying, “Will you be mine?”
DANCE WITH ME
When a male blue-footed booby is interested in a female, he lets her know with a booby boogie. He lifts his flashy blue feet in a high-stepping dance. He gracefully bows his head. And he slowly spreads out his wings. When the female decides she likes him, too, she joins in the dance!
LET’S WING IT
Here’s a love song that doesn’t require a guitar—or even a voice! A male cricket rubs the rough surfaces of his wings together to make a chirp-chirp-chirp sound. If a female hears the call and likes the way it sounds, she’ll come closer, ready to pair up.
I RUMBLE 4 U
A male alligator looking for a mate has a showy way of announcing himself. While floating at the water’s surface, he lets out a deep, rumbling bellow. That makes his whole body vibrate, and those vibrations send water droplets bouncing off his back and into the air! A nearby female can tell from a bellow just how big a male is. Female alligators mate only with males bigger than they are, so the sounds help them find the males that suit them best.
U SMELL GR8
When she’s ready to mate, a female moth gives off a special scent called a pheromone (FAIR-uh-mohn). Male moths use their sensitive antennae (an-TENee) to sniff out the scent from miles away. One whiff of this “love potion” and a male will make a beeline—or maybe it’s a mothline?—straight for the female.
I “LEK” U BEST
Male greater sage-grouse don’t do their courting in private. They do it in a big group, right on “center stage”! Dozens of the plump, turkey-like birds gather in an open area called a lek. The males spread out their tail feathers in bristling fans. Then they puff up the air sacs on their chests and make their one-of-a-kind sounds: low pop-pop-pops. The females in the “audience” watch, listen, and pick their favorites.
POO 4 YOU
When a male hippopotamus wants to spread the word that he’s ready to mate, he does it by spreading something else: his poop! To make sure every female around knows he’s available, he spins his tail in a circle while pooping. As his poop travels far and wide, so does his message: “I’m here, and I’m ready to mate!”
DO THE WAVE
My, what a big claw you have! A male fiddler crab has one super-sized claw and one regular one. He uses his smaller claw for most everyday tasks, such as eating. But when he wants to attract the attention of a female, he waves his giant claw around. Then he drums it on the ground. What a show-off!
FALLING 4 U
A mated male and female bald eagle will stick together for many years—sometimes for life. Each spring, the pair returns to its nest to lay eggs and raise babies with great care. But before Mom and Dad Eagle get down to the business of raising a family, they have a way of “flirting” that’s thrilling to see. They chase each other through the air, then clasp each other’s feet and fall together toward the ground at breakneck speed! Only at the last second do they let go and fly away.
A male mourning cuttlefish has a tricky way of winning over a female—without risking a fight with a nearby male rival. On the side of his body facing the female, the cuttlefish’s skin turns a pattern of fancy, flashing stripes. But on the side facing the rival, his skin turns a mottled brown—the same color as a female’s. So, one side says, “Hey, look at me! I’m gorgeous!” And the other side says, “Don’t mind me, I’m no threat.”
ALL WRAPPED UP
Many animals—and people, too—use gifts to say, “I like you.” Some spiders take the extra step of wrapping their presents! When a male spider wants to win over a female, he may offer her a dead fly or other piece of food wrapped in layers of silk. How thoughtful!