Only 3% of animals are monogamous—and human beings aren’t included in that number (which probably isn’t a gigantic surprise to most of us). Among the most loyal of the animal kingdom are birds—although there are a few other shockers that make us feel like we could probably put a little more work into our own relationships. Although, in our defense, the loyal reproductive tendencies of the bird may be more on the monogamous side in order to save on time rather than for romantic reasons.
From firing “love darts” to pairing up for life, the majority of the monogamists within the animal kingdom are exemplary, especially considering the natural obstacles that many of the animals on this list face within the wild—from predators to the possibility of imposing mates, to caring for vulnerable young in less than favourable environments. The pairs, regardless of species, show careful consideration of one another in their partnerships, whether it is in regards to caring for their young or in the way that they protect one another. They are committed in their pairings–which is something that, these days, seems to be less than common.
Here is a list of some of our favourite romantics in the animal kingdom:
Our closest relatives, the relationships between Gibbons are actually quite similar to our own. These couples enjoy a strong, affectionate bond and are usually relatively equal in terms of authority within their relationships, due to their likeness in size. They also seem to remain in proximity to one another throughout the extent of their partnership. Unfortunately, like us, breakups can occur—the gibbons have also been known to cheat here and there—just like us regular old humans.
9. Garden Snails
While these little slime balls are probably not what you picture when someone uses the word “romance,” due to the fact that they are hermaphrodites. They do need to find a mate to reproduce, and the courtship process involves gliding around each other in a circle while firing darts to each other in hopes of invigorating the snail’s female reproductive system. While many of the darts miss their target, the ones that stick allow the snails to reproduce for up to six hours. Kind of like Cupid, right? (With his “darts” and all.)
While the term “lone wolf” is quite common, wolves actually honour a family system that is quite similar to our own. A pack usually consists of the male, his mate and her pups, and the male even goes so far as to regurgitate food for his young. The canine couple remains monogamous throughout their relationship, fiercely protecting one another should the other find him/herself in danger. They have even been known to mourn the death of the other should tragedy strike.
This may come as a surprise to some, but male seahorses give birth to their young (Yes, they carry the litter in their bellies.), with the females depositing the eggs into the males where they are fertilized (they do this by joining tails). But before they make babies, the parents, who mate for life, spend a significant amount of their time swimming around the ocean, snout to snout. They even change colours to let their partner know that they are ready to mate. Pretty darn adorable.
6. Bald Eagles
Like many birds, the bald eagle is monogamous for life. While this bird enjoys a significant amount of notoriety due to the fact that it is the national emblem of the United States, its romantic tendencies are lesser known. With breakups only occurring in the case of death or (sigh) if the couple fails to produce young, the regal bird mates for the duration of his/her life. The eagles usually construct a permanent nest for their babies, using it year after year. The largest nest to date was located in Ohio—spanning approximately nine feet wide and weighing close to two tons.
5. French Angelfish
Rare in the fish world, the French angelfish, which is located mostly in tropical waters, pair up, and spend a significant amount of time with one another. According to the website www.smithsonianmag.com, genetic monogamy (meaning that it has not yet been verified as to whether or not the pair produce young from a single donor) as yet to be proven in the case of the brilliantly-hued fish, but the couples are often spotted together for prolonged periods of time, even during cases where both eggs and sperm are dispelled near the water’s surface (for the production of young)…meaning that these fishies might actually be working out a real-life relationship under the sea.
The bird that gained much of its notoriety from the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is more than a harbinger. The birds, which reach maturity at 10 years of age, take their time finding a suitable match. (In a mating ritual that consists of a fair amount of dancing, until they find a suitable partner.) Once they find that special someone, they develop their own language (which is taken largely from the dance moves that were used to bring the pair together). After they have coupled up, they will spend the rest of their time together focused on egg laying and raising their chicks.
These two get the party started by serenading one another. Once they have coupled up, the female hornbill will seal herself within the nest to lay eggs, leaving the male responsible for her wellbeing (fetching her food and keeping her safe) for approximately two months, until the chicks are old enough to be left alone in the nest. The male and female will then work together to feed the little ones—until they are big enough to be released from the nest into the animal kingdom.
For anyone who has seen The March of the Penguins, you understand. While the documentary left many of us in tears (Morgan Freeman’s voice just does that to people), it also educated many on the devotion of the penguin (in particular, the Emperor Penguin) to its young. Usually serially monogamous, the couple is faced with raising its young in a difficult environment (not to mention the attention that they must give the egg before it hatches). The father often “babysits” the egg while the mother sources food, making the size of the father (the larger the better) an actual attribute that the female looks for when searching for a partner.
1. Prairie Voles
This is probably our favourite of the monogamous mammals. The male loses his virginity to his mate, and then sticks with her for the rest of his life. They even take up residence with one another, and raise their children together—not to mention the fact that the couple are active cuddlers (and like to clean one another on those rainy days). After marking their territory, the males are particularly aggressive towards other females looking to upset the home front—which is awesome.