- Enough candy hearts are sold each year to stretch back and forth 20 times from Rome, Italy to Valentine, AZ.
- $8.5 million is spent on sparkling wine.
- 36 million heart-shaped candy boxes are bought.
- 58 million pounds of chocolate are purchased.
- 150 million valentine cards and gifts are sent.
- $448 million is spent on candy the week prior to the holiday.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate and flowers just as much as the next girl, but my husband knows that the way to my heart is through a potted plant instead. I know it may be a bit quirky, but with my ecology degree, my roots run deep in all things sustainable. A plant that actually has roots and will continue to live will always be my preference. One year, he even bought trees in my honor through an organization called Plant with Purpose!
I’m guessing that most of us appreciate some degree of creativity and personalization from our loved ones. You might be sorely disappointed if given a potted plant. A dentist might be offended if given candy. Just as we all have unique ways of showing affection, in studying other parts of the natural world, scientists have found that many animals have unique and creative courtship rituals as well.
We often associate the color red with love. In the animal kingdom, it is often a showy color used in courtship too. A black seabird known as the frigatebird uses a red throat sac to woo females. The males congregate in a group on the ground, stick their beaks up into the air and puff up their bright throat sacs for the perusal of females flying overhead. This is often accompanied by a drumming or whistling sound as the males vibrate their wings at the same time.
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Many other animals also use impressive displays of show and color to attract mates. Consider the flamingo. In a flashy dance-like display, groups of 5,000 to 100,000 flamingos move in unison to attract mates. You almost wonder how they coordinated that many schedules to find time to rehearse! Shows are often performed solo, as with a tropical bird called the club-winged manakin. The males of this species vibrate their tails while hopping up and down a branch in a fashion that almost looks like a moonwalk.
Animals use color and show, just like we do, but what about the ambiance? Imagine a candlelight dinner on a veranda overlooking a full moon. Yes, that sounds romantic according to our human standards, but did you know that animals like the horseshoe crab practice their courtships around the light of a full moon too? During the high tide of a new or full moon, thousands of horseshoe crabs take their cue and come together on the shore to spawn.
We use gifts to show our affection, and so does a family of birds known as bowerbirds. Male bowerbirds create a “bachelor pad” dwelling, usually on the ground, formed from carefully placed sticks. They then prepare to attract a female visitor by filling the dwelling with colorful and unique objects from their habitat. These little tokens could include, flowers, seashells, leaves, berries, or even discarded human objects like pieces of plastic or glass shards.