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Finding true love: Lessons from the animal kingdom.

Updated: Feb 14

From boxes of chocolates to bouquets of roses, falling in love is often regarded as a uniquely human practice. However, surprisingly, romance can be found in nature as well. Multiple species have their own quirky rituals to find their life partners (some of which may even sound like pretty good ways to get a date). Sadly, some of these remarkable species are now recognised as endangered, putting these unique and beautiful species at risk of extinction.


Lesson no.1: Live life like it’s a musical

Gibbons

If you’re a fan of bursting into song to express your feelings, then you will love Gibbons. There are twenty species of gibbons living in subtropical and tropical rainforests from Bangladesh to India to China and Indonesia. Unlike most of the greater apes, Gibbons frequently form long-term pair bonds and often mate for life. Like all primates, Gibbons value their social bonds with others. But, unlike some, they choose to express their emotion loudly, very loudly.


To attract potential mates, males and females sing solos to attract potential partners. This song continues as a duet once the couple are a mated pair with their young sometimes joining in as well. Though this may all sound quite sweet, in reality this symphonic howling can be heard for distances up to a kilometre away and are more often than not a warning to stay away. Hopefully its clear to the Gibbons which one is which. These songs can be used to identify not only what species of Gibbon is singing, but also what area they come from.


Unfortunately, most Gibbon species are either endangered or critically endangered. This is largely due to the loss of their forest habitats or poaching for the illegal pet trade. Thankfully, efforts are underway to ensure their future. For example, the Kalaweit project has rehabilitation centres on Borneo and Sumatra and there is also a rehabilitation centre on the island of Phuket in Thailand where Gibbons that were kept in captivity can be cared for until they are ready to be released into the wild.


Lesson no.2: Dance on air

Bald eagles

Though you may think these fierce looking creatures are a little intimidating, they turn into daredevils when it comes to finding their life partner. These exceptionally beautiful birds live in North America, including Canada, Alaska and all the other American states except Hawaii. Bald Eagles are (almost) the largest raptor species, with a typical wingspan of 1.8-3.3 metres (or one to two tall adults), with the females typically being 25% bigger than the males. A mated pair will defend a territory up to 2km in size and typically mate for life.


However, their intimidating size doesn’t mean that they don’t have to jump through some hoops in order to prove themselves to their potential partners. In fact, their courtship involves magnificent aerial displays by the males. These flights involve daring swoops, cartwheels and races that conclude with the male and female locking talons and free-falling until they almost hit the ground and then separate. Though we are not necessarily recommending that you learn how to fly or perform any daredevil tricks to impress the one who has caught your eye, it couldn't hurt to remember that occasionally asking your partner to dance is sure to sweep them off their feet.


Once bonded, these eagles work as a team to build a nest and raise chicks. These nests are continuously returned to and added to each season, making them extremely large in size. In fact, the largest ever nest made by a pair of these love-birds made its way into the Guinness book of World Records at a staggering 4,400 pounds (approximately 2000 kilograms).


Unfortunately, Bald eagles almost went extinct in the 1960’s due to habitat loss, hunting and the harmful effects of a commonly used insecticide DDT, which caused the thinning of eggshells and thereby a tragic increase in fledgling mortality. Fortunately, the banning of DDT use and the prohibition of the trapping and killing of this species both contributed to their recovery. Finally, in 2007, they were removed from the Endangered Species Act list.


Lesson 3: Everyone likes shiny things

Gentoo Penguins

Now, of the species on this list, by far the most adorable is the Gentoo penguin. Like most penguins, Gentoos live in cold environments such as the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby Islands. They live in large colonies and mate monogamously. In fact, infidelity is highly frowned upon and is typically punished with banishment from the colony. Once paired, Gentoos build their nests out of a circular piles of stones (20cm high, 25cm diameter), in fact these stones are so highly valued by the female penguins that an interesting behaviour can be observed.


The stones used to make the nests are the source of great jealousy, often resulting in loud fights or even physical fights between the nest builders. They are particularly loved by the females, to the point that male penguins can ‘propose’ with a nice stone whilst trumpeting skywards. If the gentleman is lucky the female will accept his gift by trumpeting in return and take him back to her nest. They can then proceed to raise their family, with the parents switching out egg incubation duties daily until they hatch.


Thankfully, unlike the other species on this list, Gentoo penguins are not currently at risk of extinction, though there have been some significant drops in some populations in recent years. For example, on Bird Island, South Georgia two-thirds of the population has been lost over the last 25 years. However, there are numerous threats to this species such as pollution, hunting and climate change will continue to put them at risk as well as other seabirds and penguin species. Penguin species in general are one of the most threatened groups of seabirds in which half of the currently listed species are either vulnerable or endangered.


So, if you’re struggling to find love this year, just remember, the perfect person for you is out there somewhere- they may just be like an endangered species- hard to find.


Happy Valentine’s Day from the Scienvy editors!



If you want to find out more:

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