How do you keep the music playing?:How do you make it last?

In a review entitled “Display in Monogamous Pairs,” Carl-Adam Wachtmeister of the University of Stockholm describes some of the spectacular and often vigorous performances that a broad array of birds, mammals, fish and insects engage in long after they have secured a partner. The displays may be visual, sonic or sensual, or some artful exploitation of all body systems at once.

Birds are especially prone to these exhibitions because the vast majority breed in socially monogamous pairs. In at least 200 bird species, males and females sing tightly scripted duets throughout their relationship.

Many others dance, dive in synchrony or mount each other in a Kama Sutra suite of positions even when the male’s testes have shut down for the season and conception is impossible.

And while pair-bonding is much less common among mammals, where it does occur, it is likely to be accompanied by a spectrum of marital rituals. Mated tree shrews, for example, regularly lick each other’s faces and necks in a very specific fashion, with the recipient of the lick keeping its head at a 45-degree angle and its eyes half-closed. Not until the recipient’s chin and nape have been exactingly groomed does it allow the licker to plop down on top of it so the two can take a nap.

Leave a Reply