Valentine’s Day Tips from the Animal Kingdom

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heartI’m not a big fan of Valentine’s day, but I love the ads. They are so utterly, transparently awful that they cross the line from crassly offensive into entertaining. Business Insider just did a brilliant roundup of the worst offenders of all time.

They have a certain evolutionary-psychology simplicity to them — if you present a female with this resource, she will mate with you willingly — and it reminded me of a tour I took last year of the Natural History Museum in London. The NHM celebrated the occasion with a “Turn me on/Turn me off” tour of romance in the animal kingdom, one of which I covered for New Scientist.

If you’re struggling with the crass cynical exploitation fest this Valentine’s Day, let the animal kingdom give you some cheap alternatives.

1hooters-valentines-day-1) Dining

It’s well established that if he wants any hope of getting any, a man needs to spring for an insanely expensive meal. This seems to be the reason that restaurants feel they can gouge their patrons with prix fixe nightmares. If you don’t fork out the cash, the implication is, you may as well take her to eat wings at Hooters — which, as it turns out, is an option!

But I think you’ll agree that you’d rather ask your special lady to spend Valentine’s day at Hooters than endure the plight of the sage brush cricket.

This little guy has evolved the ultimate self-sacrificing expression of undying love. Wait, scratch that. He totally dies. That’s because the meal with which he woos his sweet love is himself. To keep his lady from buzzing off during sex, he has evolved meaty wings that, during copulation, become her dinner. After she tucks in, it’s a race against time — if she finishes the wings too quickly, she just keeps on snacking on the rest of him. In fact, she usually does, and once she’s got into the body, she sucks on his weeping wounds to wash down those meaty wings.

2) Wining

Speaking of drinks, no Valentine’s day would be complete without tacky champagne commercials. But the dust mite scoffs at your attempts to intoxicate your lover into poor judgment.

These creatures knock out the ladies with a pheromone one researcher compared to rohypnol. Once she’s out, the male does his business and then skitters away, leaving her with nothing but the hangover.

choc3) Chocolates

Are you tired of springing for Godiva every year just she can eat the chocolates and ditch you for the jerk? A family of flies called empididae or dance flies – known as Chocolate Box flies down at the NHM – think there’s a better way.

To convince their ladies to agree to sex, male Chocolate Box flies evolved a habit of catching smaller flies as gifts. But girl Chocolate Box flies can put away a lot of those little flies, which posed a problem for the male: if she finishes her snack before he finishes his business, she ditches him for the next guy with snacks. To cope with this behaviour, the male figured out a neat trick — using his own mucus, he MacGuyvers himself a strong, box-like wrapping for the meal, which takes a fair amount of work to unwrap. This buys him time to do his thing.

In fact, some males figured out how to make their boxes so impregnable that the ladies could only get halfway finished with the meal before their lovers had dispensed with the pleasantries and gotten down to business. The bros then take back the box, half eaten contents and all, rewrap it and regift it for their next date.

But Natan Jewelry takes the cake for the most offensive Valentine's Day ad, implying that diamonds are the only way to a woman's ... heart.4) Buying jewelery

If you think the only way to procreate is by spending a fortune on shiny rocks, the parasitoid hymenoptera would like to have a word with you.

This creature, which also goes by the alias “jewel wasp”,  reminds you that diamonds are a pretty roundabout way to get a stranger to raise your young. When it finds its unlucky victim – usually a hawkmoth caterpillar – it first injects its larva into the creature, and then stings it with a mind-altering venom that causes it to protect the injected larvae from harm. Then, Alien-style, the babies grow inside the confused caterpillar. Soon enough the poor creature splits open, leaving the hymenopera babies to cheerfully snack on its innards. These creatures, said senior curator Gavin Broad, caused Charles Darwin to despair of a benevolent God. Kind of like the way I despaired of a benevolent God when I saw that diamond ad.

5) Help her prepare for your funeralfuneral

If you think this ad is in poor taste, let me introduce you to the garden spider. He’s also made his funeral arrangements with his beloved.

Right after he has successfully mated, he leaves his dead self behind in his lady friend’s, um, cavity — in the form of a genital plug that ensures no further access for anyone else.

You can read more about Valentine’s day in the animal kingdom, including just how bad shark sex really is, at New Scientist. But in the meantime, may your Valentine’s Day be full of meaty wings and expertly wrapped gifts!

Image credits

Bite Me candy heart: shutterstock

Bad ads: Business Insider

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Categorized in: Behavior, Food/Drink, Miscellaneous, Sally

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