EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 14, 2013

Love, Animal Kingdom Style

'Sex At The Zoo' at Franklin Park a fun way to punctuate your Valentine's Day celebration

Never mind the birds and the bees, this Friday is all about the gorillas and the camels as Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo hosts its annual “Sex at the Zoo” lecture.

Although this might not be the most romantic way to finish your Valentine’s Day celebration, organizers of the event say they are confident that humans can learn a thing or two about romance and relationships from their furry, feathered, and four-legged cousins.

“There are so many differences between animals and humans, but animals are similar to us in ways we can’t even imagine,” said Jennifer Gresham, director of education for Zoo New England, the parent company of Franklin Park Zoo. “When we look at that, it shows us a funny flip side of the world.”

While some animals, such as the peacock, rely on elaborate physical features to attract a mate, others strive to show that they are good providers. The male of the loggerhead shrike, a bird species found throughout North America, attracts his mate by displaying prey that he has captured, assuring his future partner that he can bring home the bacon for her and her offspring.

Other animals are no so up front with their tactics, although food does usually do the trick.

In many spider species the male is much smaller the female, and she often sees him as a potentially tasty treat. To avoid being eaten themselves, male spiders bribe and distract their mates with food offerings while they mate.

“Presents go a long way,” Gresham said.

The bowerbird family, found throughout Australia and New Guinea, knows a thing or two about courting a mate, too. The male bowerbird not only builds a structure to protect his future family, but he then decorates it with as many bright, colorful objects as he can find.

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