Every night is a Friday night if you’re looking for a mate in the animal kingdom. It’s time to make yourself as colourful as you can to prove you have a low parasite load, find some way to stand out from the competition and hit the local watering hole. Fortunately for us humans, there are many tricks to be learned from our flora and fauna when it comes to the game of love.
1: Bouncer Bees
The first trick is actually getting in somewhere. The hives of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, are protected by guard bees (1). Bee hives, like night clubs, can become very active at certain times and a queue can be expected. Sometimes lost bees will try to wander in and be turned away – other times, hostile intruders like wasps try to force their way in. Guard bees only let in bees that belong to the hive, and thus smell like the hive. Like bouncers, these guard bees will grab any lost or hostile insects and toss them out again.
Unlike bouncers, they might also sting them or bite their legs off.
So the key takeaway here is don’t sass the bouncer, and maybe try to smell like the club you want to get into.
2: Mating Dances
Getting to where other members of your species are is the first step. The next is to express your availability and interest to everyone and anyone. How? Why, we dance! Birds of paradise in particular have this figured out. The ladies like them some brightly coloured feathers, leading to incredibly ornate male displays of colour and dance (2).
Protip: he doesn’t hang upside down from a branch screaming unless he’s into you.
3: Exaggerating size
A recent paper records a remarkable amount of deception in the animal world – many male mammals artificially deepen their voice so as to sound larger than they actually are (3). Lions, African elephants and red deer are all capable of adjusting their calls and have been recorded doing so in order to deter potential rivals and attract potential mates.
So if you want to get lucky, talk like you have a head-cold.
4: Big crowd = arguments
A recent study published in Scientific Reports revealed an intriguing trend in the language of Egyptian fruit bats. Living in highly crowded social roosts, these bats spend most of their time arguing with each other. These arguments can be divided into 4 main groups: You’re in my spot. You’re taking my food. You are too close to me. You’re in my space making Unwanted Male Advances (4).
So, essentially any queue in a chip shop at 1am.
(1) Downs, Stephen G; Ratnieks, Francis L. W.; 2000. Adaptive shifts in honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) guarding behavior support predictions of the acceptance threshold model, Behavioural Ecology, 11 3: 326-333
(2) Irestedt, Martin; Jonsson, Knud A; Fjeldsa, Jon; Christidis, Les; Ericson, Per GP. 2009. An unexpectedly long history of sexual selection in birds-of-paradise. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 9:235
(3) Benjamin D. Charlton et al. 2016 The evolution of acoustic size exaggeration in terrestrial mammals, Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12739
(4) Prat, Yosef; Taub, Mor; Yovel, Yossi 2016. Everyday bat vocalizations contain information about emitter, addressee, context, and behaviour, Scientific Reports, 6:39419