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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Animal Facts to Fall in Love With…

By tcrnrh1, on 12 February 2016

In anticipation of Valentine’s at the Grant this Friday (12th February) I have sought out some animal facts which you will otterly love! On Friday the museum will be holding a themed late opening with Valentine’s-related animal tags being placed around the museum. Please excuse the Valentine’s puns – I’ve had a whale of a time writing this!

So here we are, eight of the best Valentine’s-focused facts from across the animal kingdom…

1. Pairs of otters hold each others’ hands while they sleep because they’re afraid they will drift apart.

Photo of Two Sea Otters

A Couple of Sea Otters Holding Hands. By Joe Robertson from Austin, Texas, USA; cropped version by Penyulap. – Cropped from File:Sea otters holding hands.jpg., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18945384

2. In some Asian cultures Venus’ Flower Baskets were traditionally given as wedding gifts. Why I hear you ask? Well, these sponges were seen to represent love because they house a small female and male shrimp for the duration of their lives. This is a relationship with mutual benefits as the two shrimps keep the inside of the basket clean while the sponge basket naturally traps food in its tissues and releases waste into the body of the sponge for the shrimps to eat.

3. Penguins portray their love for their life partners by presenting them with not a diamond ring… but a pebble. If the partner (usually female) approves she will put it in her nest. Male Gentoo penguins sift through heaps of pebbles in order to find the smoothest ones to give their partners. These pebble gifts are so important to male penguins that they are often found fighting over those deemed to be the best. Perhaps a cheap alternative to flowers and dinner this weekend would be the penguin trusted pebble gift… you can tell your partner your accompanying animal knowledge to set their heart aflutter!

Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

A Gentoo Penguin Standing Proudly Amongst the Smoothest Pebbles. ‘Penguin’ By Andrew Shiva, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46772024

4. Although it is not unique in the animal kingdom that seahorses are monogamous and mate for life, it is relatively unheard of that seahorses court each other for days before mating and when they swim they hold each others’ tails!

5. Questioning the wooing potential of a Valentine’s serenade? There have been studies undertaken on cows which found that they produce more milk when listening to soothing music. However, rather than a rendition of ‘Puppy Love’ the study found that most milk was produced when listening to the not so Valentine’s themed song ‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M.

6. If you’re doubting the human heart, then perhaps look towards octopuses as every octopus has three hearts. Two hearts continuously move blood to the gills and the third ensures circulation flow to the organs.

7. Don’t underestimate the importance of dressing to impress this Valentine’s Day. Both female and male zebrafish go so far as to change colour as part of their courtship ritual. They keep this brief though so they don’t encourage predators.

Photo of a male zebrafish

A Male Zebrafish. ‘Zebrafish’ By Azul – Own work, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=260841


8. Finally, flirtatiousness is associated with albatrosses. For a funny few minutes check out their extensive mating dance.
Valentine’s at the Grant will take place on Friday 12th February from 6:30-9pm. The event costs £6 including a free glass of wine and lots more interesting animal facts!


Rachel Bray is the Learning and Events Assistant at the Grant Museum of Zoology.

3 Responses to “Animal Facts to Fall in Love With…”

  • 1
    Diana Matias wrote on 21 February 2020:

    Dear Rachel,

    We are a team of students and postdocs organising the Planet Earth nights within the Pint of Science event (London 11-13 May 2020). You might have already heard about Pint of Science, but in case you have not, it is one of the biggest non-profit organisation for scientific public engagement in the UK (http://www.pintofscience.co.uk).

    The general aim of the event is giving the chance to the general public to engage with top scientists while they present their research in a friendly environment, like a pub.

    We read this your “Animal Facts to Fall in Love With..” and this year one of our nights (13th May) will be fully dedicated to the topic about sexuality and love in animal world. We would like to invite you to shed light about this subject from your point of view in a 20 minutes talk.

    Prof Sommer from UCL Anthropology will also give a talk on the controversial topic of homosexuality and evolution. Would you be interested in taking part?
    In case you cannot make it, could you please suggest any collaborator of yours or any other expert in the field who might be interested?

    Looking forward to hearing back from you,

    Kind regards,

    The Planet Earth Event Managers Team:

    Valentino Barbieri
    Chiara Cursi
    Virginia Gouveia
    Domenico Macrì, PhD
    Diana Matias, PhD
    Laura Rodriguez Arco, PhD

  • 2
    Jimmy sheriff wrote on 1 April 2020:

    Hey Rachel,
    These animal facts with beautiful images captured my attention. Thanks for sharing. I came across one similar resource for animal information: https://animalcreativefacts.com/

  • 3
    Differencess Team wrote on 1 April 2021:

    Hey Rachel,
    Great facts you have put down. We are also animal enthusiasts do visit us back for some great animals facts,images,videos, comparison charts.

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