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These Weird Animal Courtship Displays Are Probably Better Than Your Valentine's Day Plans

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Animals celebrate Valentine's Day all year long, and they're probably doing a better job at wooing a lover than you are.

Take the male bowerbird, for example, that decorates its "bachelor's pad" with flowers and man-made objects to impress females. Or the male cuttlefish that changes color on one side of its body to fend off male competition. These animals definitely know what they're doing.

So, if you're trying to up your game this Valentine's Day or impress that special someone, try taking a hint from some of the weirdest and wackiest mating rituals in the animal kingdom.

  • Frigatebirds
    Getty
    Guys, don't forget to strut your, eh, facial hair -- just ask these birds for advice. In addition to waving their heads, flapping their wings and calling to females, the males congregate in large numbers and display their vibrant red throat sacs, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For a 20-minute period, they force air into these throat sacs, which then resemble a balloon. If a male has wooed a female, she will fly in and land alongside her new mate. Footage of this display can be viewed here.

    (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
  • Bonobos
    Getty
    Let's be blunt: bonobos are frisky. Like humans, they don't engage in sexual activity just for the purpose of reproduction. Members of the same sex will engage in sexual behavior, and can do so several times in a day. Females may even copulate with multiple males in their social group, except for their sons, according to the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web. Scientists think these animals engage in this behavior for social rankings and kinship.

    (Photo by GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Flamingos
    Flickr
    Flamingos know how to go on one heck of a group date. These social birds engage in an impressive and elaborate "dance" to attract makes, as shown here. Congregating in huge colonies of 5,000 to 100,000 individuals, flamingos move in sequence, and do anything from marching, honking or bobbing their heads back and forth. Breeding pairs then leave the group and tend to be monogamous until at least the next breeding cycle, according to the Denver Zoo.

    (Photo by Pedro Szekely/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Horseshoe Crabs
    Flickr
    Horseshoe crabs are so classy that they only spawn under a full or new moon, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

    Horseshoe crab spawning -- dubbed a "spring fling" by The Washington Post -- peaks around May and June but varies by latitude. Thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore at a time, predominantly during high tides during these two moon phases, according to The Horseshoe Crab, a website devoted to its conservation and natural history.

    (Photo by Amy Roe/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Hippos
    Getty
    Here's an example of what NOT to do on Valentine's Day, obviously. To attract a mate, male hippos pee and defecate at the same time, according to Mental Floss. Then, they use to their tail to spread it around and spray it at the female.

    (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images for WWF-Canon)
  • Porcupines
    Getty
    Porcupines don't want chocolate or flowers for Valentine's Day -- they want urine. Females signal to males that they're ready to mate by urine markings and mucus, who then travel great distances to compete and fight for her. Their courtship ritual is a bit odd to us humans: sometimes, the male will pee on the female -- even from another tree branch -- until she becomes receptive to him or moves on, according to Slate.

    (Photo by UWE MEINHOLD/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Flatworms
    Flickr
    If you're looking for a unique activity to do on Valentine's Day, try fencing like flatworms do! Eh, sort of. Marine flatworms are hermaphrodites, meaning that they have both female and male reproductive organs, according to Reed College. So when it comes time to mate, they fight and stab each other -- dubbed "penis fencing" -- to establish who will assume which role. It's a huge loss for the assumed female, as she must bear the energy to care for the eggs, according to PBS. You can watch the phenomenon here.

    (Photo by q phia/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Praying Mantises
    Flickr
    Hopefully your Valentine's date isn't as controlling as these insects. A few praying mantis species engage in sexual cannibalism -- that is, the females eat the male's head during or after mating. These 'graceful' insects aren't the only species that do this: Some spiders, scorpions and crickets, among other critters, also engage in this behavior, according to PBS.

    Scientists aren't totally sure why they do this, but a few hypotheses exist. Males appear to thrust more vigorously with their heads chomped off, and sexual cannibalism can increase mating success, according to Time. And in the case of Chinese mantises, another study suggests that males are an integral part of the females' diet.

    (Photo by Dale Moore/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Albatross
    Flickr
    Albatross have all of the right moves when it comes to courtship. When the birds find a desired mate -- one that they'll stick with for life -- they dance, preen each other's feathers, point their beaks to the sky and make noises, according to National Geographic. The ritual is so synchronized and elaborate that it looks like they've been rehearsing their entire lives. Trust us, it's worth a watch.

    (Photo by USFWS - Pacific Region/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Deep Sea Anglerfish
    WikiMedia
    Hopefully your Valentine's date isn't this clingy: when some male deep sea anglerfish find a female, they bite onto her and fuse with her circulatory system, according to Audubon Magazine. This behavior, known as sexual parasitism, may seem selfish, but they do it for good reason. Finding both food and a mate in the darkness of the deep sea can be difficult, so it's advantageous to latch onto this resource for life, according to Wired. Females can host up to eight males at once.

    (Photo by Masaki Miya et al./WikiMedia Commons)
  • Red-Sided Garter Snakes
    WikiMedia
    Red-sided garter snakes are like teenagers in the throes of puberty... only worse. When they emerge from hibernation, they form huge "mating balls" where males dash to the females and swarm over her -- up to 100 males at a time, according to Audubon Magazine.

    It certainly isn't fun for the female: the males may cut her oxygen supply off, and when the female releases feces and muck to ward off her "lovers," the closest male inseminates her. The females sometimes attempt a "body role" as a detachment maneuver, but the males have a basal spine covered in small spikes that can be used to hold the female in place, according to the Smithsonian. Needless to say, mating sucks for these females.

    (Photo by Zooplan/WikiMedia Commons)
  • Buff-Breasted Sandpipers
    Flickr
    "Wow, your armpits are so sexy!" said no one ever, except for the Buff-breasted sandpiper. To woo a mate, males flash their wings and do a double-wing courtship display, according to the Nebraska Bird Library. The females get a glimpse of their silver-white underside -- dubbed "armpits" in this BBC video -- and can decide whether to mate with him or move on, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    (Photo by Seabamirum/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Peacock Spiders
    WikiMedia
    Guys, maybe some flashy, colorful jewels could woo the ladies this year. Male peacock spiders have quite the decorative, colorful abdominal flaps -- and of course, they're used to impress females. The complex display involves sending out vibratory signals, revealing a pair of black-and-white third legs and waving their peacock-like flaps, according to "Sensory Ecology, Behaviour, and Evolution."

    But these colorful spiders are members of the jumping spider family, so like praying mantises, they must be very careful during mating or the female could eat them, according to The Guardian.

    (Photo by Jean and Fred Hort/WikiMedia Commons)
  • Hooded Seals
    Flickr
    Gifting something pink is a sure way to win over a lady -- just ask humans and hooded seals. When males are attempting to attract a female, they close one of their nostrils and inflate an elastic nasal septum, according to NOAA, which resembles a pink ballon on the top of its head. Take a closer look here.

    (Photo by Visit Greenland/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Whooping Cranes
    AP
    Hopefully you've got some dance moves ready to bust out this years like whooping cranes do. They leap, dance, flap their wings, toss their heads and fling objects around during courtship, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

    When whooping crane populations dropped to fewer than 100 individuals in the 20th century, ornithologist George Archibald stepped in to try to get one whooping crane in captivity, Tex, to mate. To initiate ovulation, Archibald danced with her, and after several attempts, she successfully hatched a chick in 1982, according to Audubon Magazine.

    (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

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