Posted 14th Feb 2017
Tim Ferrero, the Living Seas Officer with The Wildlife Trusts, talks us through some of the Valentine's day romance going on in our oceans
February 14th and the age-old dilemma, where’s the perfect place to impress our chosen valentine? From sunny holiday romances to walks along windswept shorelines and perhaps even a cheeky midnight skinny-dip (though not in February!); for me it’s the sea.
The sea is my passion, and as a marine expert I know that beneath the waves, passions run deeper still. Many of our marine wildlife species are just as keen to find the ideal partner and will go to great lengths to ensure they woo a mate to breed successfully and pass on their genes to the next generation. Sometimes their methods might seem strangely familiar to us, but others are downright peculiar.
The male cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) which swims all around our coast guards his partner while she prepares to lay her eggs. When the couple encounter another pair, both males display bold zebra-striped patterns, and deploy an intensely striped ‘guard’ tentacle to ward off their potential rival; both moves signal that the males are willing to fight for their partners.
Other marine males aren’t quite as macho and have to work just that bit harder. Male black bream build elaborate nests on the sea floor, their grand designs keenly judged for suitability by a visiting female. After she makes her choice of ‘des res’, and after a brief romance, it’s the male who stays behind to guard the nest until all the eggs have hatched.
For some, love is forever. For one species of shrimp, domestic bliss means spending their entire adult lives inside the same glass sponge. The adults are too big to escape sponge’s delicate silicon skeleton and spend their time cleaning the house by feeding on whatever drifts in and watching their tiny offspring escaping to find sponges of their own.
Our seas really are amazing, romantic places, but to thrive, we need to make sure that all our wonderful marine habitats and species are protected from damage, so that love can run free and we have healthy, productive and diverse seas around us to value and enjoy.
Other marine romances include:
Sea hares are hermaphrodites and get together in chains to mate, with each individual acting as both male and female, producing millions of eggs. It must be hungry work as one of them is having a seaweed snack!
Male tompot blennies can inhabit the same rocky crevice for several years and entice a number of females inside to lay their eggs. As true polygamists, the females may visit other males’ “bachelor pads” as well, but it is the males that then look after the eggs, cleaning the with a special gland on their underside and fighting off rivals and predators.
Black faced blenny:
Male blackface blennies only develop their distinctive colours when they are breeding. They also become highly territorial and will waste no time in fighting off rivals that stray onto their patch. When they aren’t fighting, they try to attract a female with a distinctive “figure of eight” dance hoping that she will choose their territory to lay their eggs in. If they are lucky, they then get to look after the eggs until they hatch as the female does not sat any longer than necessary.
The Wildlife Trusts supports the creation of a network of conservation areas around our coast where marine life can be protected and thrive. We need your help to achieve this, so why not campaign with us, sign up and do your bit to show some love for our seas.
Text courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts - image courtesy of Alex Mustard / 2020VISION