The animal kingdom is as dedicated to the pursuit of happiness as the human one. Each species has its mating rituals, from the frantic dance of squawking flamingos to the perfunctory pickup call of the three-toed sloth, who expends little energy and less time actually mating. Caretakers of exotic pets and trackers of exotic wild things get to observe some really unusual romantic pursuits. In the case of more exotic fauna, the courtship is often anything but courtly.
Australian Redback Spiders
Male Australian redback spiders are much smaller than their female counterparts, which may explain a puzzling courtship ritual that would seem to cross the line into abuse. Female spiders require the males to dance an elaborately choreographed performance for 100 minutes. During the dance, the male joins his web to the female's and beats on her abdomen in a drumlike rhythm. It is a nonstop tour de force that may not impress the female enough to entice her to mate with him. If he stops too soon, she will bite his head off. Then he will be eaten, and other male Australian redback spiders will fight for the privilege of dancing to death or delight.
California Leaf-Nosed Bat
The leaf-nosed bat makes its home in the southwest United States. The male sets up a kind of "singles bar" late at night in a cave or mine and defends his territory aggressively even as he calls out to available females who flit through his "room." The male bat flaps his wings in display and, if he attracts a female long enough for her to land, flies to her and wraps his wings around her. If she stays and allows him to nuzzle her, they mate. If not, the male resumes his calling and flapping. Any other males who fly through a claimed territory risk getting knocked out of the air by their territorial courting rivals.
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are large and noisy and will purr when their backs are rubbed. The males have a four-part repertoire of sibilant sounds, each with a distinct meaning. They are either upset about something, looking for a fight, chasing away interlopers or cruising for female cockroaches. The males defend their harems of females vigorously and, when they are courting, hiss seductively. To the initiated there is no mistaking the courtship hiss. The male serenades his chosen female and then, if all goes well, they progress to reciprocal antennae stroking. Some scientists have described the mating sound as more of a chirp than a hiss. In any case, a very vocal bug.
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