Interested in finding out about animals that mate for life?
The world of wildlife behavior is incredibly varied, with all manner of sexual practice on display. So just what is it that makes one species choose monogamy? Choosing a partner for life may not be as commonplace as other mating habits across the animal kingdom, but for those animals that mate for life, it’s likely the key to survival.
According to the World Wildlife Foundation, only around 5% of mammal species choose monogamy as their reproductive strategy. That means that 95% of mammals live their lives with varied mating partners.
So pour yourself a glass of wine, dim the lights and turn on the romantic music, we’re about to meet nature’s most loving couples. Here are 12 examples from nature of animals that mate for life:
Titi monkeys are another primate that mates for life. They tend to form very close emotional bonds with their partners, spend almost all of their time within calling distance of each other, and exhibit mate-guarding behavior. If separated from their mate, titi monkeys exhibit distress and agitation.
Whilst most antelope species move around in herds, the miniature dik-diks are different. They live in monogamous bonded pairs, spending up to 64% of their time together, and have one offspring at a time. It’s thought Monogamy in dik-diks may be an evolutionary response to predation, though males, but not females, have been observed attempting to initiate opportunistic mating with other partners.
Coyotes occur across North America in many types of ecosystems, but one aspect of their behavior remains a constant: Coyotes are one of the most monogamous animals on this list. In one six-year study coyotes were observed as showing “no variability in their monogamous mating system.” As with other canids on this list, coyotes can be thought of as ‘obligate monogamists,’ meaning that the success of raising their litter is dependent on both parents’ ongoing cooperation.
Oldfield mice are unusual for rodents in mating for life. These mice only live for around nine months in the wild (most definitely not one of the animals that live the longest), but form a strong bond with the partner and spend their short lives breeding and sharing duties in taking care of their many offspring.
Monogamy isn’t limited to land creatures only. When single seahorses meet they flirt with potential mates by intertwining their tails and performing a dance around each other. Once they’ve found their lifelong seahorse mate, it’s the male seahorse that carries the babies in a pouch in their stomachs. Seahorses generally have a short lifespan (up to four years), so monogamy is not necessarily quite the same commitment as it is for other animals on this list.
Both red and gray foxes are monogamous mammals that mate for life. They are known to live in small family groups of a bonded, mating pair with their young, plus single females who help to care for the mating pair’s cubs.
Prairie voles are considered a good model for human behavior as they are socially monogamous rather than genetically monogamous. This means that whilst they stay with the same partner for life, they occasionally stray with a stranger. Never-the-less, even after death prairie voles tend to remain faithful, with 80% of voles who lose a partner not seeking out another.
After living with their parents for two years young beavers leave the family nest to find their own partner, who they stay with until death – usually about 20 years. After a partner dies a beaver may look to partner up again. Interestingly, European beavers have been observed as being completely monogamous, whilst North American beavers do occasionally ‘see other people.’
These small, New World monkeys are socially monogamous and cooperative breeders. Their family group usually consists of a breeding pair, their close adult relatives and their offspring. Marmosets tend to mate for life, though in rare cases multiple sexual partners have been reported for both females and males. Marmoset fathers get full marks for childcare, serving as babysitters and carrying their offspring around on their backs.
All 19 species of gibbons mate for life, pairing up and forming a family to rear their offspring. It’s thought that the continual grooming and sharing of childcare responsibilities is what keeps gibbon partners bonded. However, whilst primarily monogamous, gibbons are like humans in that they are known to cheat, break up, and re-partner.
The beautiful creatures are governed by the law of the pack, and it’s only the alpha male and female couple that are allowed to mate and reproduce. They stay together for life and mate just once each year.
Shingleback skinks are extremely monogamous – they wander solo for much of the year but meet up with the same partner each mating season. During the mating season, these lizards are not only monogamous but seemingly amorous too, often traveling close together in a pair with the male following slightly behind the female. During their lifelong relationship (which can last up to two decades) the male regularly woos the female with licks and caresses… nice!
And that’s our list of animals that mate for life. Any that surprise you? Or any we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.
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