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Great Tits Would Rather Go Hungry Than Leave Their Mates: Other Animals With Remarkable ‘Love’ Bonds

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Researchers from Oxford University found that a species of birds called great tits or Parus major would rather starve than wing it alone with their partner. The research team discovered that despite an immediate need for food, the birds chose to stay close to their partners than forage for food alone.

The researchers initially thought that mating great tits would split ways if it means having greater chances to forage for food. The experiment, which involved restricting access to one of the mating birds, led researchers to discover that the birds without food access would stay alongside their feeding partners than wing it alone.

"The choice to stay close to their partner over accessing food demonstrates how an individual bird's decisions in the short-term, which might appear sub-optimal, can actually be shaped around gaining the long-term benefits of maintaining their key relationships," said Oxford zoologist and lead author Josh Firth. This particular bond has been observed in other animals.

Prairie Voles

Researchers from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta observed the mating habits of a rodent species called prairie voles, which is a mouse's shorter and stouter cousin. Their "snackable" size makes them a favorite meal for predators like snakes and hawks, leaving mating prairie voles just a few months to enjoy their partner's company. In the research haven in Atlanta, the prairie voles are given a safe, parasite-free environment complete with all the comfort they need: a mate, abundant nesting materials and readily-available rabbit food.

Led by Yerkes researcher Larry Young, the team believes that the prairie voles' habits could explain why humans care for their partners, pamper their children and grieve for the dead. The team found that unlike 97 percent of mammals, prairie voles are monogamous and possess social traits that are almost human in nature, including creating lifetime bonds with just one mate. Researchers observed a courtship prior to mating and the strong bond that forms long after the deed. The male also sticks around to raise the babies, a follow-through that is expected by the female who would tug her partner on the back of his neck when he is failing to do the job. The prairie voles also experience something similar to human grief when their mates die.

Gibbons


A species of lesser apes known as gibbons are human's closest mammal cousins that also mate for life. Apart from creating strong pair bonds, gibbons also show low sexual dimorphism, meaning physical traits such as size, structure and shape of the two genders are roughly the same.

Swans


Swans have become symbols of love and monogamy. While male swans assist their female partners in building nests and generally help in the incubating the eggs, studies have found that male swans, particularly black swans, can also "swim around." In a study led by University of Melbourne's zoologist Dr. Raoul Mulder, findings showed that one in six of cygnets wasn't related to the male swam guarding the nest. The research also showed that the adultery is committed by both the male and the female.

French Angelfish


The French really knows romance - even among their fish species. The French angelfish or Pomacanthus paru are known for their life-long bonds, often traveling and hunting as a couple. These cold-blooded animals can be territorial, often defending their territory against neighboring couples, a phenomenon seen in the suburban neighborhoods of a human society.


Waved Albatross

They may be flirts but they sure are monogamous - at least most of them anyway. Waved albatrosses or Phoebastria irrorata are known for their ritualized coupling dances and they often settle down with just one mate for the duration of their life. However, like swans, genetic testing of baby waved albatrosses showed that around a quarter of them are fathered by different males. As for the wandering albatross or Diomedea exulans, about one in 10 babies have different daddies, which makes them not-so wandering after all.

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