Searching for ways to woo your valentine? Take some courtship cues from these Aquarium creatures!
1) Send the right signals
Fish are often at their most colorful just before mating season. The Rainbow Darter is considered one of North America’s most beautiful freshwater species and those signature hues are at their brightest in males during the springtime – their prime breeding season.
In the ocean, octopuses can change the color and texture of their skin at will to send a message to a potential mate. Male cuttlefish (a cephalopod cousin to octopuses) have even been known to mimic the coloring of surrounding females to hide from potential competitors while looking for love.
Many seahorses also have elaborate courtship rituals that involve tail wrapping, head bobbing and color changes.
2) Highlight your best feature
When it comes to flirting, Humphead Cichlids put their heads together, literally. The species, known for the large nuchal hump protruding from just above their eyes, has a peculiar courtship ritual which involves mates rubbing their foreheads together. This often results in swelling of the aforementioned humps. (Talk about letting a little attention from the opposite sex go to your head!)
Some turtles, like Red Eared Sliders, take a slightly different approach. Males, which are typically smaller than the females, swim just above a potential partner and flutter their long claws in front of the female’s eyes.
3) Treat them to a little song and dance
Occasionally, impressing the mate of your dreams takes a little more showmanship. That’s where the more vocal and/or twinkled-toed members of the animal kingdom shine! Though it may not seem like music to human ears, creatures including birds, frogs and even alligators use mating calls to help them find love. (Listen to the Barking Tree Frog here.)
Four-eyed Turtles prefer a dance number to singing. A male was once spotted in a backup area here at the Aquarium showing off some fancy footwork to lure a female out of hiding.
Ever the show offs, Macaroni Penguins combine both music and dance for one of the loudest most elaborate courtship displays to be seen at the Aquarium. During nesting season, pairs can often be spotted (and heard) shaking their heads and vocalizing in unison.
4) Get the timing just right
Barramundi spawn on the full moon in their native habitats in Australia, and their iridescent scales can be seen shimmering through the water.
Also fans of full moons, Horseshoe Crabs emerge onto beaches in the spring to mate in large groups sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands. This species has lived on Earth since before the time of the dinosaurs, making this a true love story for the ages.
5) Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your commitment
Sometimes earning the heart of the one you love is all about proving you’re in it for the long haul. Young Coral Banded Shrimp pair up and grow together. Paired adults can be found in the same territory for months or even years.
Gentoo Penguins are also no strangers to long-term relationships. Courtship starts with gentle bows between partners and then begins a rather intricate nesting process. Nipper, a Gentoo in the Aquarium’s Penguins’ Rock habitat, is known for his affinity for rock collecting and often works for days during nesting season to get them placed just right in the nest. Sometimes this even means resorting to some rather sneaky behavior, but it’s all in the name of love.