Kids' Animal Station

For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals

“What is Love?” Ask the Animal Kingdom: Animals that Pair for Life

In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s discuss some different animal species that are noted for mating for life. While most animals (and people) are non-monogamous, meaning that they have several different romantic partners throughout their lives, it is sweet to see both human and non-human pairs that uphold their love with one “soulmate” for decades at a time. Regardless, everyone should have the right to choose who and how to love as they please! But, as usual, I digress….

  1. Swans

The heart-shaped connection of two lover swans is a classic symbol of everlasting love. And this holds true, primarily. The vast majority of swan species mate for life, especially Mute, Trumpeter and Tundra swan species. Mute swans occasionally die of ‘a broken heart’ following the death of their lifelong partner. Although it’s nice to think it’s all for love, it also appears that establishing long-term duos makes nearly everything in a swan’s life easier: from migration to the incubation of eggs to the raising of baby chicks. These intelligent birds are even documented to learn from their previous mistakes, raising the chances of evolutionary survival with each breeding season. Talk about a power couple!

2. …Beavers?!

Ok, beavers are not exactly icons of love and longevity. Beaver family units are colonies ranging from 2 to 8 beavers, with a breeding male and female pair that ‘run the house’. I wouldn’t say that they’d pop in my mind immediately, but it actually makes sense when you consider that North America’s largest rodent is not only flat-tailed and bark-loving, but incredibly territorial. Staking their territory by scent-marking and dam-building becomes much easier when you have an army of buck-teethed babies helping establish their lodgings.

3. Macaroni Penguin

Besides being hilariously named for the equally-ridiculous bright yellow plume of feathers at their brow, the Macaroni Penguin is also comfortable being a dedicated homemaker in longstanding couples. Interestingly enough, the migrational patterns of the Macaroni Penguin demand an incredibly short mating season of about 20 to 30 days. For the rest of the year, these loyal and big-nosed couples live essentially separate due to differences in male and female feeding practices. Enough to bring a tear to your eye…(from crying, of course, not laughing).

4. Gibbons

The primarily monogamous nature of gibbons is perhaps not surprising due to the complexity and highly intelligent nature of these ‘lesser apes’. However, more contemporary research on the reproductive patterns of gibbons has raised that gibbons are more “reproductive monogamists” as opposed to “social monogamists”. That is, their interest in mating for life is likely more closely related to the practicality and survivability rates of dedicated adult gibbon pairs, like defending their territory, rather than anything close to what we’d call ‘love’. I don’t know if my heart will listen when it’s so heart-warming to watch them groom each other, though. I mean, look at those faces! Who are we to judge?


This entry was posted on February 18, 2023 by in Animal Facts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Wise Words

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if a person or animal is at stake."
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."
— Translation of African Proverb

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