gifts biology valentines day love

Pleasures of giving gifts – and of course receiving them

Some gifts idea for the Valentine’s day

No female is totally immune to the charm of a thoughtfully selected gift from her admirer, and -let’s be honest- human males too are happy to receive a gift from someone who appreciates them. Amongst the animals, however, males are usually the ones expected to give gifts and not to receive any. The male scorpion flies know that only too well. Their females (and those of the Empididae, the so-called “dancing flies”) actually make the nuptial gift a prerequisite for mating to proceed.

In some species of scorpion flies the males catch a small insect and, holding it outstretched and advertisingly in their front legs, hand it over to the female. If she accepts the gift and actually starts feeding on it, the male knows she likes him and gives him sufficient time to complete copulation and impregnate her. My friend Prof. Okui has shown that there is a direct relationship between the size of the gift and the duration the male is allowed to mate. Of course, cheats occur also amongst the scorpion fly males and some nasty characters after they have finished with their mating business, snatch the nuptial gift, or what is left of it, out of the grasp of the surprised female only to use the now no longer fresh gift again as a lure for another bride. Some species have the habit of wrapping the nuptial gift in silk prior to handing it over; this gives the male extra time, because the female requires a while to unwrap the present and find the gift inside. The greatest cheats are found in some dancing flies. Some of their males hand over only the packaging of the gift, the empty wrapper so-to-speak, and while the female fly is searching and searching for the morsel of food she expects to find, the male grabs the opportunity (and her abdomen) and inseminates her.

Nuptial gifts are also employed by some crab-spiders, but to ensure that the female does not get up too quickly or develop an appetite for the physically smaller male, the male not only wraps his gift in silk, he also lays a few strands of silk over the female’s body as well. The rhinoceros bird Buceros rhinoceros (state bird of Sarawak) goes a step further and locks the female of his choice into a hollow tree with a hole only large enough to allow the female’s head to protrude. He then comes to feed her and the chicks regularly. Begging by the female and feeding by the male are also commonly incorporated into the love play of seagulls and wolves. The precious gifts, consisting in these species of half-digested fish and regurgitated raw meat, may not be to everybody’s liking, but who would want to be too critical when it comes to carefully selected presents from a loving partner? After all, isn’t it the thought that counts?

gifts biology valentines day love

© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and, 2016.
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