Animal Courtship And Mating Rituals Explained

Animal courtship and mating rituals are some of the most endearing yet bizarre things humans have witnessed. These rituals vary greatly from species to species, but they all have the same end goal – to find a mate. 

No doubt, if you’ve ever taken a walk in the woods or visited a zoo at certain times of year, you will have noticed that animals do some weird things.

Animal Courtship And Mating Rituals Explained

You might have been lucky enough to see animal courting and mating rituals in action! For most people, these are only things that we can observe through a screen of sorts. 

Whether you’ve seen these things in person or not, you probably have a lot of questions. So, we’re here to explain them a little more! Nature might be confusing, but it’s pretty amazing, too. 

A Look Into Animal Courtship And Mating Rituals

What Is Animal Courtship?

Animal courtship, or courtship displays, are a wide variety of behaviors or “displays” that an animal (typically the male), will use to try and attract a mate.

These behaviors are incredibly different for all species, but the mate (the one the male is trying to impress), is the one who can choose who they go with. As such, sexual selection plays a key role in the whole event. 

What Are Mating Rituals?

Mating rituals are a part of the whole courtship display process. Here, the one trying to do the impressing, will “advertise” their characteristics and traits to attract a mate.

Again, this is done so that the females can pick which partner they want. Because of this, mating rituals are very advantageous, and the weak are rooted out. 

Why Are These Behaviors Important?

As previously mentioned, courtship and animal mating rituals are an amalgamation of behaviors and rituals done by animals to attract a mate. In these scenarios, the mate is the one with all the power, and they get to choose who impresses them the most. 

In some cases, these animals will go on to have a monogamous relationship with the partner they chose. However, in most cases, polygamy is the way forward.

A few well-known examples of monogamous animal relationship include:

  • Voles
  • Swans
  • Beavers
  • Seahorses
  • Owls
  • Penguins
  • Bald Eagles 

There are plenty more, though, so if you’re interested, why not learn more? It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of animals in the world are polygamous, which means that they will mate with a number of partners rather than being “faithful” to one. 

It’s pretty special when you do come across an animal in a monogamous relationship. Take swans, for example. These birds have such strong bonds that if one dies, it’s common practice in some countries to kill the other.

This is because the remaining swan would be alone for the rest of their life, which is too sad to even imagine. 

Of course, there is always a chance that an animal who loses their partner in a monogamous relationship can find another. For example, Prairie voles are in exclusive relationships and are sometimes able to find another partner.

However, this doesn’t happen very often. Maybe the bond they make with their partners is too strong to allow them to move on?

Animal Courtship And Mating Rituals Explained (1)

A Few Strange Animal Courtship Behaviors 

Land Snails And Love-Darts

Land snails are stuck by cupid during their rituals. No, really. These snails are hermaphrodites, meaning that either one can fertilize the other.

During the whole mating ritual, one of the two snails will propel a tiny “love dart” into the other one’s head. These arrows will then deliver a special mucus infusion to the other snail, which makes them begin to prepare to receive sperm from the other. 

This will only happen after the mating pair have spent some time touching one another with their muscular pseudopods and circling. As far as mating rituals go, this might be one of the more bizarre. It’s a real-life Cupid shot.

Black Widows And Butt Shaking 

We all know Black widow spiders are incredibly dangerous, but let’s look past that for a minute. The male black widow is about half the size of the female, which means that he could be eaten if he approached the female’s web.

To prevent this from happening, the male has to vigorously shake his butt, so that he isn’t confused for prey. 

When the male spider steps into the web of his to-be lover, the vibrations he emits will travel via the strands to her. This will show her that he isn’t prey, as his vibrations are at a much lower amplitude.

Not only that, but his walk-pause-walk-pause method also signifies that he isn’t her neck snack. 

Pretty smart, huh?

Mating Mystery Circles

Did you know that some male pufferfish species go to great lengths to attract a mate? It’s true! Some pufferfish will use their bodies and raw skills to forge stunning, symmetrical patterns in the ocean floor sand.

The whole process can take more than a week to complete, and once it’s done, he decorates it with shells. 

We still aren’t sure if the designs are actually created to attract a mate based on aesthetics, though. Scientists believe that the patterns are primarily there to channel sediment particles, so who knows!

Final Thoughts 

There are plenty of weird and wonderful animal courtship and mating rituals out there. They are done to attract a mate, sometimes for life, in order to bring new life into the world.

Some animals go to extreme lengths to impress their mates (like many birds of paradise), while others are a little less showy.

Whether it is a pebble or a strange act, animal courting is something that has always amused and piqued curiosity within the wildlife community.

No matter how showy or simple, animal courtship is something that we would like to learn more about, especially in the sea. There’s no telling how many strange behaviors exist for the simple purpose of attracting a mate.

Wouldn’t you like to find out more? 

Mindy Russel
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