Gifts Also Rule Animal Kingdom

They offer piggyback rides, share food
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2013 11:51 AM CST
Gifts Also Rule Animal Kingdom
Bonobos like giving gifts to strangers.   (Shutterstock)

Many species of animals are just as into gift-giving as we are, though they may be better at avoiding that last-minute shopping rush. Often, the New York Times explains, the presents are tied to mating. "This is an incredibly cool and important topic in sexual selection that we’re just beginning to explore," says a researcher. The Times offers a range of fascinating examples:

  • For the spotted beetle known as Callosobruchus maculatus, this season's hottest item is... water. While making eggs, females become parched. But mating means getting a new supply of liquid: Males store up water and transfer it while mounting females.
  • Male scorpionflies can create a giant ball of protein and nutrients for the female to devour. But creating it can be tough, so some males instead opt to offer a dead bug to potential mates.
  • Male Pisaura mirabilis garden spiders actually wrap their gifts, using silk.

  • Among birds known as great gray shrikes, males may offer regular mates bugs on a stick. But when they're in the mood to cheat, they provide "mistresses" with bigger gifts, like dead lizards or even small birds.
  • Female Zeus beetles take care of gift-giving duties by offering males a weeks-long ride on their backs, complete with the secretion of a waxy food supply.
  • It's not just mates who benefit from animal gift-giving. In a study, chimp-like bonobos were found to prefer giving their food to those they didn't know. The test subjects had the option of letting a buddy or an unfamiliar fellow creature out of an enclosure. They went for the stranger, pushing food its way. "If it’s somebody I haven’t met before, why not get the new relationship off to a good start?" suggests a scientist.
(Read more holidays stories.)

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