Nuptials

1. Eastern fence lizard

The male eastern fence lizard moves his body to show off bright blue skin on his throat and stomach. If the female is not ready to mate, she arches her back, raises herself off the ground, and jumps away sideways.

2. Blue-footed booby

The male begins by lifting up his enormous clown-feet one-by-one, and then stops in a distinctive pose, beak raised skyward, announcing his manhood with a loud whistle, pointing out his tail, and opening his wings. This is accompanied by a love-offering of sticks and twigs. Females join in the mating dance, following the same movements, but respond with a guttural honk.

3. Brook lamprey eel

The females would laboriously construct nesting hollows in the gravel bed of the stream. Moving one tiny piece of gravel a time in their suckers it would take hours but eventually the tiny creature would have made a depression about the size of a computer mouse. Exhausted she would fasten her sucker to the largest stone in the wall of her nest and wait.

Within half an hour the little nest would be a seething mass of lampreys! I never found out whether it was just males from other parts of the stream or whether there were other females there that had been too lazy to build a nest. Unlikely, I think, because sometimes one would even see two or more females collaborating on a nesting hollow that would be correspondingly larger.

The mating frenzy would go on for hours, in an orgiastic scenario which would have doubtlessly provided scope for any aspiring producer of piscine pornography. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the frenzy was over. The exhausted lampreys would drift away and fasten themselves to rocks and just shimmer in the water like seaweed. The next day they would all be dead.

4. Scarlet-bodied wasp moth

As a caterpillar, the insect feeds on a non-toxic plant, climbing hempweed. Then, when it becomes a moth and is ready to mate, the male changes his eating habits. As darkness falls on his big night, he visits the poisonous dogfennel plant. Dogfennel is easy to spot in pastures, says [Prof. William] Conner, because the cows eat all the grass around it, but leave the tall toxic plant standing.

The male moth extracts toxins called “pyrrolizidine alkaloids” from the plant.

“He lands on the plant, regurgitates on the plant to dissolve the alkaloids and then reimbibes the toxin-rich liquid,” says Conner.

The small red and black moth stores the toxins in a special pouch. The pouch, located on his underbelly, is filled with fibers that have a cotton candy consistency.

Once he has ingested the toxin from the plant, the male is no longer tasty to his common predators, particularly spiders and bats. After gathering the poison, the moth goes in search of a female. When he finds his insect bride, they mate for nine hours. But, just before mating, the moth releases the toxin like a cloud of miniature confetti that sticks to the female. The toxin protects her while she is mating and while she lays her eggs. The female moth then passes the toxin to her eggs. The toxin deters egg-eating insects like ants and ladybugs from devouring her young.

5. Crane

Cranes form lifelong monogamous pair bonds.

The mating dance of the crane is spectacular. The birds walk stiffly around each other with quick steps, wings half spread, alternately leaping high in the air. During this, the cranes bow deeply and stretch. Next, the cranes pick up sticks or blades of grass; throw them in the air, and stab at them with their beak as they come down. Both sexes, mature and immature, take part in the dances.

When males and females call in unison, both point their bills to the sky and the male raises part of his wing over his back and joins the female. The two birds call back and forth for about 10 seconds. Scientists believe these calls reinforce the monogamous pair bond and also serve to defend their territory.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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