February….the month of lurve.
Valentine and St Valentine’s Day date back to the 5th Century! Today we celebrate St Valentines on 14th February as a day of romance between lovers. This holidays origin comes from the roman festival of Lupercalia, which was traditionally held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day.
Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who was martyred about 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. According to legend, the priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and, by some accounts, healed from blindness. Other accounts hold that it was St. Valentine of Terni, a bishop, for whom the holiday was named, though it is possible the two saints were one person. Another common legend states that St. Valentine defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war. It is for this reason that his feast day is associated with love.
During the 1500s formal messages of love started to spread and by the 1700s it had become as commercialised as it is today. Valentines commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Because it was thought that the avian mating season begins in mid-February, birds also became a symbol of the day. Traditional gifts include candy and flowers, particularly red roses, a symbol of beauty and love.
Back to the aquatic world that us Scuba Divers thrive off! Did you know that they’re of some amazing loving relationships out there in the oceans?
Japanese Puffer Fish
These awesome little guys create “underwater crop circles” as part of a mating ritual. The males flap their fins as they swim along the seafloor, disrupting the sand making these lovely patterns. The Puffers are only about 5 inches in size and create a masterpiece that’s around 2m in diameter. Once they’ve created their pattern, they decorate it with shells. The females then make their decision on who to choose by assessing their skills and artwork(!). If she’s impressed, she will lay her eggs in the centre of the circle, where the male will then fertilize them.
Check out this BBC clip to see him work his magic
Most species of Seahorses mate for life. They dance together every day to reinforce their relationship. This is done by entwining their tails, swimming side by side and mirroring each other’s movements.
Did you know that it’s the male that carries the developing embryos and gives birth to their live babies? (This is the only known male species that do this!)
During the mating season the female deposits her eggs into his pouch (like a Kangaroos!) and the male fertilises them there.
Check out this BBC clip to sea some local Seahorses dancing
(PLEASE NOTE: It is illegal to actively search for and/or photograph Seahorses in the wild if you do not have a license to do so!).
(I think this is weirdly my favourite!)
When the deep-sea Ceratoid species of Anglerfish were discovered in the 1800’s scientists were confused as to why they were only finding large female specimens. They recognised that some had a bumpy appearance, and some didn’t - some bumpier than others. It was ruled that these bumps were other species – possibly parasites. But it wasn’t until later on that scientists realised these bumps were in fact male anglerfish!
When the males are born, they follow a pheromone to a female. Once he finds a female he latches onto her body and fuses himself to her – their skin & blood vessels join, allowing the male to feed off his host. His sperm is provided whenever she is ready to spawn.
There are other species of Anglerfish where the males are independent and look after themselves. They only latch onto the females to mate.
Pacific Striped Octopus
Octopuses are well known to be solitary creatures that typically mate at arm’s length. However, the small Pacific Striped Octopus have been observed close together.
These species cohabit in the same crevice for a few days while they mate, as well as sharing their meals. Observers have described their actions as having rough sex, arm-to-arm, sucker-to-sucker and beak-to-beak (as if kissing). After mating the male looks after the eggs, while the female leaves and dies.
These monogamous Angelfish are rarely found on their own, they’re always seen in pairs and they mate for life. They work together to defend their territory and foraging together. They travel to the surface together and release their eggs and sperm together into the water. If they are ever separated, they perform a circling dance with each other when they reunite.
These Eels are another monogamous relationship and live in the same caves together for life. They start mating from the age of around 7 years old, the male wraps around the female (a hug maybe?) while she lays her eggs, which he then fertilises. Once the eggs are laid, they coil around them shaping the eggs into neat spheres. They both protect the eggs, massaging and rotating them to ensure that they get enough supply of Oxygen. They take it in turns to leave their home to get food.
These cute fluffballs are quite social animals. The males are polygynous, mating with multiple females throughout the breeding season and often luring females away from other groups. The mating itself is often forced upon the females, the males bite and hold down the females. Sea Otters form a friendly raft in large numbers on the surface to help protect them from predators and stop them from drifting off along while they sleep.
Male Otters have also been observed & documented on several occasions sexually assaulting young Seals!!
Not so cute now eh….?
However, they do look cure when they're holding hands on the surface. Some people mistake this for being in love, but it's actually what they do (mostly in groups) to stay together. The groups form rafts, they hold hands to stay together which stops them drifting off on their own while they sleep and forms a kind of defence from predators (strength in numbers and all that).
It’s common knowledge that Humpback Whales can belt out a good tune. But there is speculation as to why they do this, there are a few theories and while these theories are valid reasons and quite possible scientists are still not entirely sure of the actual reasons for this and are still researching.
The first theory being that is helps them navigate through the oceans. A second theory being that it’s communication, although predominantly between males as it’s only the male that sings.
A third theory, being that it’s a mating call. This has been slightly debunked recently by scientists in New Zealand because the recordings they played under the water only attracted males, not females. A theory in relation to this is that the song is for males to join together to display a “lek.” A Lek is when multiple males display together, allowing females to choose the best from the group.
Click here to listen to their Majestic songs in Monterey Bay
Highly recommended for Whales watching by the way.... ;)
An adorable one to end on. Most people can’t say they’ve dived with Penguins; however, what people don’t realise is that you can, in fact, see them in several parts of the world (Not just Antarctica!), like New Zealand & Australia, South Africa and South America. Most Penguins do have a monogamous relationship – although in unfortunate circumstances when one partner doesn’t come back, life goes on and they have to find another partner. So, I mentioned earlier that traditional gifts of letters, sweets, chocolates, and flowers are usually what one would expect to receive from a loved one. But some Penguins prefer sticks and stones…
Male Gentoos search for the right pebble to give to his companion. If she likes the stone that he’s picked out, she’ll keep it in her nest and they’ll mate for life. The stones are so important that the males often fight for the smoothest, prettiest stone and once it’s in the nest the stones are fiercely guarded by both the male and female.
Male Adelie Penguins go back to the same nest every year. They tidy it up and build it out of sticks and stones and anything else they may find. The same female from the previous year(s) will head back to the same nest to check out his hard work and make sure it’s still up to scratch - if she’s happy she’ll stay. They’ve been observed to check out other nearby nests too, which can cause trouble!
For the species that don’t build nests, such as the Emperor’s, singing is very important – Like the Happy Feet film! It is believed that a female can tell how fat a male is by its song, meaning the fatter he is the longer he can guard their egg without leaving for food. Once a female chooses her mate, they embark on a courtship ritual which involves bowing, preening, and calling to each other. This ritual builds their trust and relationship and helps them get to know each other, as well as learn their calls so they can find each other later on. Once they have mated and the female has laid her egg the male incubates their egg between his feet for 2 months while the female goes to search for food.
I hope you've been inspired for Valentines this year! ;p
Don't forget if you're stuck on what to buy your loved one for Valentines Day this year check out our GIFT VOUCHERS PAGE!