Thursday, February 9, 2012

You Show Off! (part 1)

Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday and you know what that means, it means you’re glad that I reminded you that you have yet to get something for your sweetie.  That's because Valentine’s Day also means looove.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it’s this time of year especially when our thoughts turn towards romance and finding that special someone.  To impress the object of your affection, you may try to outdo potential rivals by offering gifts like chocolate and expensive (or at least expensive looking) jewelry, you may get all dressed up for your date, and if you’re feeling especially bold, you just may try to show off with some dance moves or your hidden musical talent. This time of the year means love for animals too, and the techniques that they use to impress potential mates are not so much different from our own.

Although we’re barely in to February, I have already been hearing birds singing outside my window. When birds sing, they are generally conveying two messages: “this is my territory” or “hey baby, check this out”.  Males want to show females how talented they are so that she will want to mate with him to pass along his superb genes to her chicks.   

The songs of birds are highly variable, but the mimics are probably the most varied of all.  Birds like the northern mockingbird, brown thrasher, and European starling all copy the sounds of other birds (as well as car alarms) in order to impress their mates. The male with the largest repertoire gets the girl.  We may think of parrots being the greatest mimics, but I think this guy gives them a run for their money: the superb lyre bird.
The chainsaw and camera make my jaw drop every time.

If you're one that likes to show off by spending money, you have some friends in the animal kingdom as well. Those that present gifts to potential mates are demonstrating that they are good providers, and can take care of the couple's future young.

...translates to this:

So guys, think about just what it is you are conveying the next time you give a gal some chocolates on the first date.

Some animals choose to show off by trying to outdo the competition in a battle of the brawn.  Deer clash their antlers, wolves challenge dominant males, and rams slam their heads hard enough to need a lifetime supply of Motrin. Again, this is all done to show the females who has the better genes for strength. In Florida, I always got a kick out of watching the anole lizards fight.  They escalate through a series of steps that involves push-ups, flaring their dewlap (the flesh beneath the chin), and posturing before duking it out reptile style.  This video not only shows one heck of an anole fight, but the soundtrack is perfect.
Ouch!  That face grab has gotta hurt.

Stay tuned next week, when I'll highlight even more ways that animals show off to mates!

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