Every holiday comes with expectations — we want fireworks on New Year’s Eve, sunshine on Australia Day, and sweets and romance on Valentine’s Day.
And these animals are ready to deliver. So if you’re not ready for Cupid, take a cue from these creatures who win Valentine’s Day with all the right moves.
Best Gift: Ornate Moth
This beauty knows how to give a girl a multi-purpose gift. The male ornate moth, found through most of the United States and extending into South America, gives its mate what’s known in the insect world as a “nuptial gift.”
Ornate moths absorb noxious chemicals called alkaloids from rattlebox flowers and hang onto them as chemical defences. The chemicals “are passed to the females by males during mating and then on to eggs,” says Andrei Sourakov of the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The male ornate moth gives females a toxic gift.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREI SOURAKOV
The chemicals are handed over in sperm packets that are nutritious for the female, plus she can pass them down to her offspring.
Dinner and a force field? Not a bad date.
Best Dance: Greater Sage Grouse
You’ll find some amazing courtship dances across the animal worlds, but we have to give it up to the sage grouse. A male sage grouse struts his stuff in what’s known as a lek, a group of males trying to attract females.
These males don’t shy away from competition and will use the same lekking ground for years.
Greater sage grouse males begin their display by gulping a litre of air, holding it in their oesophagus and then forcing it out. They can spend hours displaying their spiky feathers and inflating the yellow-green air sacs on their chest, making a noise that sounds something like an alien softly singing while throwing a rubber ball against a wall.
Any guy who goes to these lengths deserves a look, at least from us.
A sage grouse struts in a courtship display.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB SMITH, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
The Other Best Dance: Suriname Toads
Suriname toads don’t look very glamorous, but they pull off quite an aquatic tango.
With the male clasping the female from behind, the couple perform somersaults in the water. The female releases eggs, which roll onto the male’s stomach and then the female’s back, where he fertilizes them. The couple make this arc over and over until she lays up to 100 eggs.
That is some serious dirty dancing.
Smoothest Operators: Spiders
Maybe it’s all those legs, but no one’s got moves like a spider man.
Granted, it’s mostly a survival tactic.
Male Australian redback spiders perform courtship in phases, first at least 100 minutes of vibrating the web, and then vibrating both the web and the female’s abdomen before attempting to mate.
WATCH: THE SEXY DANCE MOVES OF MALE PEACOCK SPIDERS Amazing closeup footage reveals the unique and colourful mating dance of six newly discovered peacock spiders. Video footage by Jürgen Otto
In a different kinky move, male nursery web spiders tie up the female’s legs before copulation.
This foreplay isn’t so much romantic as a way to help the guys avoid becoming 50 shades of prey.
Lifetime Loyalty: Beavers
“They’re mating at the lodge right now,” says wildlife ecologist at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and author of The Beaver Manifesto.
Mating isn’t just a Valentine’s quickie for these toothy mammals. Beaver mating season is January through February, and the pair will stick together through spring—and the rest of the year. And beyond.
Beavers are generally monogamous, taking another mate only if a partner dies or if the male is driven out by an invading male, which experts call “forced divorce.”
American beavers live up to 15 years in the wild, so they can stay coupled for 13 years. In human terms, that’s at least a silver anniversary.
What could be more Valentine-y than that?
LEAD IMAGE: The American beaver, Castor canadensis, forms long-lasting pairs. PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBBIE GEORGE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE