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Love in the Ocean!

Happy Valentine's day ocean lovers. Whilst we all have a special place in our hearts for the big ol blue, the ocean is full of its own love stories - some more romantic than others, so let's dive in! 

The world's biggest heart

Synonymous with Valentines day, hearts are an emblem of love. But the biggest heart in the world belongs to the blue whale. Blue whales are the largest creatures to have ever lived, so it is no surprise that these giants have enormous hearts too. Though the heart only makes up 1% of the whale's body weight, that still weighs in at a whopping 400 pounds! That's 640 times the weight of our human heart. It is about 5 feet in size, which is not much smaller than myself! 

Growing up to an impressive 30 metres in length it is not surprising that these giants need a circulatory system to match. The arteries are wide enough for a human to squeeze through!  

Blue whale scientific illustration by Rachel Brooks Art

A real life love train 

In manta rays, males are definitely not afraid to come across as keen, as they will pursue females for hours on end, sometimes days!

The male will start by shadowing her movements, positioning himself on her back, these advances are usually shaken off by the female. But she will sometimes respond by accelerating forward rapidly with the male in tow. This soon attracts more males, and up to 30 mantas have been seen following a female in a courtship train! Those who can't keep up are soon out of the running, as she puts them to the test by barrelling and breaching out of the water. 

After all that chasing, copulation lasts only 30 seconds! Manta rays only reproduce every 2-3 years so witnessing a mating train is very special.

Reef manta ray scientific illustration by Rachel Brooks ArtWho needs a man?

Well, not a sawfish anyway! The smalltooth sawfish was the first documented case of facultative parthenogenesis in a wild vertebrate. Meaning they were able to reproduce without a male! The DNA analysis of sawfish in a Florida estuary revealed that 4% of them had no genetic contribution from a male. In some species, this is a method used by the females when the population is low and the female struggles to find a mate - giving a sad reality that there is not plenty more fish in the sea. 

Small tooth sawfish scientific illustration by Rachel Brooks Art

A little clingy?

In the dating world, you may be looking for the warning signs of a clinger, but Anglerfish take this to the next level, and males physically fuse themselves onto the female. The much smaller males, don't have the characteristic lures which you may associate with anglerfish. In fact, their entire existence is notably less impressive. The male will seek out a female and bite on to her side, where over time he fuses to her body. He no longer needs to use his eyes, so he loses those along with most of his internal organs. His bloodstream connects with hers and he spends his life living as a parasite, along with any other males who have also clung on! His only contribution to this relationship is his sperm! So he can keep this bizarre species going. 

Anglerfish scientific illustration by Rachel Brooks Art

This is just a small sample of the weird and wonderful love lives in the ocean but there are so many other fascinating stories. From dancing seahorses, pufferfish who create works of art for their potential mates, tornados of speed dating basking sharks and penis fencing flatworms, it's certainly never a dull moment dating beneath the waves!

Wishing you all a lovely day!

 

 

 

 

 

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