project news

Can you feel the love tonight?

News item submitted by Agatha Ioannou
News item dated 14 Feb 2011


St. Valentines is upon us once again. The day we declare our undying love and affection to our partner, but what about the animals? I hear you cry.

Ladies and gentlemen, take note of a rare example of how to keep a relationship together. Introducing the angler fish, who take their devotion to one another to the extreme, where ‘till death us do part’ is a reality. When a male encounters a female he bites into her flesh and over time they become fused together as one. They are now “mates” for life and able to reproduce at any time or place, which would otherwise be a challenge as they live in the dark abyssal depths. Aww how romantic?  

Another happy pair are gibbons who remain faithful to one another and sing duets. Eat your heart out Kyle Minogue and Jason Donovan!  Black vultures also mate for life, however this may be in fear of the consequences if they do stray. Cheating vultures are aggressively attacked by a community as infidelity is not tolerated. 

However despite popular belief lifelong bonds are a rarity in the animal kingdom and very few animals mate for life. Scientists believe that only 3-5% of mammals form lifelong pair bonds. Many animals have created quite a promiscuous reputation for themselves, particularly for some reason, dolphins. Is this why they appear to be so happy and playful all the time? They have also been known to behave sexually towards whales, porpoises and even humans! 

Bonobos are notorious for having multiple partners with sexual encounters not only occurring for reproduction, but to greet others or even resolve a conflict. Whilst in the bee community the more sexual partners the queen has the more appealing she is to her workers. As more research is undertaken, the less monogamous wildlife appears to be. What heartbreakers.

Happy St Valentine’s Day