Courtship Dances: weedy sea dragons, grebes and peacock jumping spiders.

Many organisms perform elaborate dances in an attempt to attract a mate. It is generally rather difficult for us to gauge variation among these dances, as many males perform them equally well – at least it seems that way to us. But, females do have preferences, and nevertheless manage to select the mate that they want.  Below are just three remarkable examples of courtship dances:

A male weedy sea dragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, with its eggs nestled in specialized 'cups' on its tail.

A male weedy sea dragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, with its bride’s eggs nestled in specialized ‘cups’ on his tail.

Although the creature above superficially resembles a seahorse, it is not a seahorse but a close relative. This spectacular fish is a sea dragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, and can be found in Australia (preferably in areas with more kelp).  Weedy sea dragons perform a spectacular dance where the male and female swim and dance in nearly perfect unison. After an exhaustingly long dance, if chosen, males will receive a female’s eggs, which are embedded into specialized ‘cups’ on the males tail. The male will protect and nourish these eggs until they hatch into adorable baby sea dragons, leaving behind small depressions in the male’s tail. Here is a video, narrated by none other than Sir David Attenborough, which shows the beautiful  mating habits of the weedy sea dragon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJAYO1Y5iks

Two Western Grebes, Aechmophorus occidentalis, in the midst of their courtship dance.

Two Western Grebes, Aechmophorus occidentalis, in the midst of their courtship dance.

Grebes have a variety of dances, many of which involve mirroring actions, gift giving (fish/vegetation), and “water-walking”. Here is a video of two Clark’s Grebes in their spectacular courtship dance:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4XH1-h0rfk
And another video of the Great Crested Grebe’s different courtship dance:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqJYMD03q1s

Peacock Jumping Spider

A male peacock jumping spider, Maratus volans, displaying it’s abdominal flap to nearby female(s).

Here is a video showing the courtship of a different species of peacock spider, it’s actually pretty adorable and comical for a spider:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVDolRfgseY
(The channel for this video has many other videos, of different peacock spider species, here is another one that explains the courtship in a little more detail:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GgAbyYDFeg).

These three examples of courtship dances are merely some of my favorites. There are many other spectacular examples, particularly in birds and fish. Some other interesting examples include: Red-capped Manakins, birds of paradise, trumpetfish, flamingos, peacocks, grouse, cranes and swans. You can check out some interesting examples at this link, if you are interested:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/adaptations/Courtship_display

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