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General Biology

Animal Courtship and Mating

sandhill crane, sexual reproduction, bald eagle, sexual behavior, mating

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Animal Courtship and Mating, behaviors used by animals to meet compatible mates for sexual reproduction. Courtship is the collection of ritualized behaviors unique to each species that leads up to and enables animals to successfully mate. Courtship accounts for some of nature’s greatest dramas, such as the sandhill crane’s elaborate ballet, the bald eagle’s stupendous flying cartwheels, and the salmon’s marathon upstream journey as far as 3860 km (2400 mi) to its native stream.

Mating is the placement of sperm, the male sex cells, in the vicinity of eggs, the female sex cells. Animals use a variety of methods to mate, all of which promote fertilization, or fusion of sperm and egg. Fertilization initiates development of a new organism, the beginning of the next generation. Fusion of sperm and egg, known as sexual reproduction, is the predominant means of reproduction on earth. It results in an array of genetically diverse offspring that are better able to survive a changing environment, thus increasing the potential for preservation of the species.

Many animals must jump through a number of hoops to mate successfully. To succeed in mating, an individual must first identify and attract a potential mate of the same species. One or both partners must arouse sexual interest in the other. And sexual behavior must be timed so that partners are ready for physical union at the same time. The signals and behaviors of courtship rituals are designed to help animals overcome these obstacles to mating.


Benyus, Janine M., B.A., B.S.

Natural science writer. Author of ''Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature'' and ''Beastly Behaviors: A Watcher's Guide to How Animals Act and Why''.

Article key phrases:

sandhill crane, sexual reproduction, bald eagle, sexual behavior, mating, salmon, obstacles, earth, animals, nature, time, journey, signals, array, generation, species, potential, beginning, preservation, individual, results, partners

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