In our world of celebrity scandals, ever-increasing divorce rates, and rampant heartbreaks and heartaches, love may seem like a lost cause, especially around February 14th. If your Valentine’s Day is looking like it may be a little more blue than red this year, don’t despair. Mother Nature proves that love does spring eternal, but it also flies, swims, climbs, and grooms. Here are five animals that are well versed in the art of Eros.
Underwater Romance: The French are notorious for their predilection for romance, and the French Angelfish is no exception (even though it’s actually native to tropical Atlantic waters). These aquatic inamoratos spend their lives with their significant others, feasting on sponge and algae, and engaging in a fierce couples rivalry fending off other Angelfish from their territory. At night, they hunker down in their coral abodes, hiding from predators. Oui oui!
Star Crossed Doves: The steadfast dedication of turtle doves may be symbolic of Valentine’s Day, but the avian mates are most commonly associated with love of a Yuletide persuasion with their inclusion in The 12 Days of Christmas. Like humans, turtle dove males make spectacles of themselves when they attempt to attract potential paramours, puffing out their chests and bouncing up and down. Once a match is made, turtle doves build a home together, literally. The two construct a nest and take turns incubating their yet-to-be-hatched chicks. The turtle dove’s fiery passion has also been noted by Shakespeare in the poem, The Phoenix and the Turtle.
Vole-entines: The wide-open prairies of the Midwest may seem vacant to the naked eye, but amid the grassy plains and alfalfa is a love-struck rodent. Voles are renowned for their monogamous tendencies; one study found that when males had the opportunity to hook up with a fresh-furred virgin vole, they declined nearly 90 percent of the time. Voles are also a testament to the fact that fidelity transcends life and death: a study revealed that when a significant other died, less than 20 percent of the widower voles would knock boots with a new mate. With all the tunneling and foraging that has to be done, who has the time these days?
Love That Keeps on Gibbons: Unlike 95 percent of their mammalian brethren who play the field come mating season, Gibbons are a notably exclusive breed. Their ability to stay in it for the long haul may be due to both primates wearing the pants in their relationships—mom and dad take on child rearing and other duties. Like many couples who settle down in hopes of domestic bliss, their ire comes not from each other, but their rebellious offspring, which results in the pesky upstarts getting the boot. “The young stay with their parents till they get evicted at five to nine years when they become a problem for the same-sex parent,” says Shirley McGreal, chairwoman of the International Primate Protection League.
Swan Song: When two swans’ heads come together, their arching necks and touching torsos form a heart. This bio-geometric coincidence is fitting for the animals who have come to characterize love and its inherent devotion. When swan mates meet, and feathers are about to fly, they publicly proclaim their budding romance in a much less subtle manner than a Facebook status. “As pairs are bonding or declaring their territory they will trumpet or bugle together,” notes Tim Sullivan, curator of birds for the Chicago Zoological Society. “Think of it as a song and a dance.” According to Sullivan, father swans take part in the child rearing duties by protecting the mother from predators and nest marauders as they incubate their eggs. Once the babies are born, both mom and dad help them find food and literally take them under their wing to keep them warm.
Though typically committed animals such as the ones listed here have been known to occasionally stray, their rates of successful monogamous partnership seriously outstrip that of humans. This Valentine’s Day, whether you’re kicking it on the couch with chocolate and chick flicks or taking your beloved out for a beverage, keep in mind that the love is real, it just may not be the masterpiece you imagined.
Photo credit: photoforum