Nature Gone Wild:
For Valentine’s Day, The Nature Conservancy Ranks the Top 10 Most Bizarre Ways Nature Finds Love in the Wild
Two Missouri grassland animal species, the greater prairie chicken and the critically endangered American burying beetle, are included on the list because of their unusual mating behaviors.
Bringing Back Bison
Watch the story of Dunn Ranch Prairie unfold.
Beetlemania: Coming Soon to Missouri!
Learn about the planned reintroduction of the American Burying Beetle onto Wah'Kon-Tah Prairie in southwest Missouri.
So you think you’ve had some strange dates? This Valentine’s Day, The Nature Conservancy compiled the top 10 most bizarre examples of love in the wild.
“Nature can get pretty wild, especially when love is in the air,” said Todd Sampsell, The Nature Conservancy’s Missouri State Director. “While we may find the mating habits of some of these critters bizarre, they actually may remind you of someone you know.”
Unfortunately, many of these creatures are at risk of disappearing forever because of habitat loss, climate change, and other threats.
“Here in Missouri, the greater prairie chicken faces an uncertain future because of habitat loss and fragmentation,” Sampsell said. “The American burying beetle is also in rapid decline, and is now listed as critically endangered. It has been absent from Missouri prairies for decades, but this year we’re partnering with the Saint Louis Zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bring the beetles back to the Show-Me state.”
To make sure these incredible animals survive in the future, The Nature Conservancy is restoring temperate grasslands in northwest and southwest Missouri. These grasslands are the most endangered, least protected land habitat on Earth, and restoring them not only ensures a future for native Missouri grassland species but it also helps protect Missouri’s rural heritage and economy.
“Nature is powerful, but for many animals their future now depends not only on their mating prowess but on what help we give them,” Sampsell said. “If we don’t act now to protect the lands and water these creatures call home, they may not be around for future generations.”
Do these wild lovers remind you of anyone?
1) Deep sea angler fish: “Losing yourself in love”
Male anglerfish bite their mates and permanently fuse to their bodies. Over time, the male’s brain, eyes and organs dissolve until he turns into a small lump, releasing sperm whenever the female is ready to lay eggs. Scientists first thought the lumps were fins before discovering they were the males.
2) Prairie Chickens: “Strut Your Stuff”
Male prairie chickens attract females with loud “booming” noises that can be heard miles away. They also perform an elaborate dance -- lowering their heads, erecting their neck feathers, inflating orange air sacks, dropping their wings and pointing their tails, all while frantically stamping their feet.
3) American Burying Beetle: “Family Oriented”
American burying beetles not only are monogamous but also raise their children together. Expectant parents bury dead birds or mice and lay eggs nearby. The parents lie on their backs and use their legs like a conveyor belt to move carcasses up to 200 times their own weight. Once hatched, larvae feed on the carcass or the parents rub their wings together to call the larvae and regurgitate meat into their mouths.
4) Freshwater mussels: “The bait and switch”
Male mussels release sperm into the water, which females capture downstream. Larvae hatch inside the females’ shells but must then attach to a fish to grow. To lure fish, mother mussels wave appendages that look like worms, crayfish or other bait. Some emit a smell of rotting flesh to attract scavenger fish. When fish approach, the mussels shoot the larvae onto the fish.
5) Prairie Vole: “Born to be Faithful”
Unlike most rodents, prairie voles are monogamous. Scientists have discovered that prairie vole faithfulness is caused by hormone receptors located in their brain’s reward centers, giving them the sense of pleasure from monogamy.
6) Bower birds: “Bachelor Pads”
Male bowers of Australia and New Guinea build large and elaborate bachelor pads on forest floors, decorated with flowers, leaves, shells and even stolen coins – anything they think will attract a mate. Some paint the walls with chewed berries, others build lawns of moss. Drab males build the flashiest pads to compensate for their dull colors.
7) Lions: “One Track Mind”
When lions mate, the coupling usually lasts only about 20 seconds. But the pair will repeat the act every 20 minutes or so – sometimes up to 40 times a day. This will continue for three to seven days straight, with the male and female neglecting to hunt or eat during the entire time.
8) Tree crickets: “Smooth talker”
Male crickets bite holes in leafs to amplifier their love songs and attract females. Once they mate, however, male sperm packets don’t fit inside the females’ bodies so a portion hangs out. The ever-ravenous females try to eat the packet before fertilization can occur. To distract her, the male sings and secretes a tasty goo from his back, feeding her until the eggs are fertilized.
9) Day Octopus: “Keep Your Distance”
Female day octopi are known to eat their partners after mating, so the males keep their distance. When a male finds a female, he extends one arm and waves. If she responds, he uses his arm to place a sperm packet under the female’s body covering. The octopi stay at an arm’s length – appearing as though they are holding hands.
10) Little Brown Bats: “Waiting for the Right Time”
Because these bats mate in the autumn -- but hibernate during winter – females store sperm for seven months to delay pregnancy until springtime. While bats normally hang upside down, females stand upright to give birth and catch their babies in a membrane between their legs. Newborns cling to their mothers even during nighttime flights as they search for food.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.