By Suah Cheong, American Forests
It’s finally Valentine’s Day — simultaneously one of the most loved but dreaded holidays. Though humans are not biologically programmed to mate for life, our social structure has been built around monogamous relationships. We sometimes go to great lengths to show love and affection, whether it be by embarrassingly serenading those we care about or by spending fortunes on rocks.
In our defense, we aren’t the only ones crazy in love. Take a look at some of these other interesting relationships in nature!
Swans are famously monogamous animals. Their love for their partners is so deep that they mate for life, and their loyalty is so storied that that the image of two swans’ necks forming a heart has become a universal symbol of romance. However, the reality is not so romantic. Their monogamy is merely a strategy for them to raise the maximum number of cygnets, or baby swans. Because migrating, establishing territories and raising their young are their main priorities, swans don’t bother searching for new mates.
Although rodents don’t exactly scream romance, prairie voles are perhaps the most romantic species out there! They mate for life, share nesting and pup-raising responsibilities, huddle together, groom together and are highly supportive of each other. When their partner shows signs of stress, they’ll give them the prairie-vole equivalent of hugs and kisses. In about 80 percent of cases where a vole’s partner dies, it never takes on another. Only about 3 percent of mammals show this kind of monogamy.
Bowerbirds have an incredibly unique courtship ritual. The male bowerbird will create a nest in order to impress a potential mate. But there’s a weird catch — he has to decorate the nest with items of a specific color! They choose their colors based on what color they think will give them the highest success rate; usually, they pick blue. Male bowerbirds collect a combination of natural and manmade objects, arrange them carefully, then present their masterpiece to a female. If the female likes what she sees, the mating can commence.
“‘Till death do us part”
Despite their vicious reputation, wolves are actually quite affectionate! Starting as early as age two, wolves mate for life (until one of them dies). A pack is usually made up of an alpha male, an alpha female and their offspring. Sound familiar? Wolves rarely ever deviate from their packs — they’re all about family values and teamwork! Wolf packs depend heavily on the leadership of their alphas. Using their strong leadership skills, alphas organize the pack to hunt as a group and monitor them closely to watch for interpack fighting.
Young and in love
Lovebirds certainly live up to their name. These monogamous animals start looking for mates when they are merely two months old! The female will ruffle her feathers to attract a male. Once she has his attention, the male will respond by bobbing his head up and down. After this process, they will have successfully paired up! They maintain strong bonds and often cuddle with each other, hence their name.