human behaviour is fascinating, and itâ€™saround this time of year â€“ february 14 to be precise â€“ that homo sapiens in many countriesengage in a curious ritual: the valentineâ€™s day gift exchange. whether it be cards, chocolate, roses, plushtoys, a love fern or diamonds (if youâ€™re fancy or serious); they appear to be tokensaimed at acknowledging you, wooing you, keeping you or just consumerist obligation. but homo sapiens arenâ€™t alone in givinggifts to their partners â€“ weâ€™ve observed many animals act in the same way and bestowtokens of their affection to their bae. love gifts that are, arguably, better thanroses.
#betterthanroses. to the adelie penguin, pebbles are one oftheir most prized possessions. stones are in demand â€“ the penguins usethem to build nests and theyâ€™re hard to find on the antarctic coast. the penguins often fight over them, and stealstones from each otherâ€™s nests. during courtship, a male penguin presentsfemale with a pebble as a gift. if she accepts his gift, they couple up andmate for life. from an evolutionary biology perspective,we can look at these nuptial gifts through the lens of parental investment theory â€“ effortparents go to that will benefit their offspring.
the male is providing a gift to a female thatincreases her â€œreproductive outputâ€ â€“ the gifts attract females and facilitateâ€¦ someaction. and gifts are given elsewhere in the animalkingdom. in northern australia and papua new guinea,male bowerbirds build complex nests (or â€œbowersâ€) to try and woo females. the nest is made mainly of sticks and decoratedwith whatever bling the male can find â€“ shells, flower petals and even bits of rubbish. theyâ€™re the ultimate hoarders who arrangetheir trinkets in a specific pattern to woo the female into the bower â€“ so they cansee their swag before they reach the male
bird. research suggests the geometry of the boweris directly related to the mating success of the builder â€“ if built to give the correctperspective, the nest makes the male bird appear bigger. and well, that leads to more reproductivesuccess. outside of the bird world, a species of southamerican spider gives love presents too. males offer female spiders an item of preythatâ€™s wrapped in silk. and the larger the gift, the better theirchance of mating. aside from the size of the dead insect, chemicalsignals found within the layer of silk influenced
whether the female would accept the gift. kind of romantic? even after youâ€™ve found a partner and areno longer dating, the gifts donâ€™t have to stop. take seahorses for example. when courting, the male seahorses will fightfor female attention, but once theyâ€™ve found a mate is when the gift-giving really begins. the females give their eggs to the males,who then fertilize them and carry the young to term.
this means that the males, instead of thefemales like in most species, eventually give birth to anywhere from 5 to 2500 baby seahorses,depending on the subspecies. so you donâ€™t necessarily have to get yourpartner something expensive. sometimes the best gift is just doing somethingnice for them. back in the realm of homo sapiens, economicresearch suggests that the materialistic tone of valentineâ€™s day make it a holiday lovedand a holiday loathed. and psychology studies tracking couples throughoutthe year have found that relationships are more likely to break up in the weeks followingthe holiday. when all hope seems lost, thankfully, we havenature to turn to.
the giving and receiving of gifts is a ritualthat takes place in all societies and even the animal kingdom â€“ just in different forms. this year, consider the unique gifts of nicepebbles, a dead insect, carefully curated rubbish or some shells; for a token of yourappreciation truly inspired by nature. it really is the thought that counts.