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February 14, 2014

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Every day is Valentine’s Day in the animal kingdom

February. It’s the month of love. Flowers, chocolate candy, and heart-shaped Valentine cards flow freely. But why February? Wouldn’t a spring month have been better when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love? Well, maybe a cold winter is good for hugs and cuddling. In reading the history, there are several stories about why February. There was more than one Valentine and no one is sure which one the Pope meant to honor with sainthood, but all the historical fellows named Valentine were apparently beheaded on February 14.  The execution could have been due to his illegally marrying people or maybe he performed a miracle (not allowed then), or simply because he was a Christian. Others say in 496 C.E. the Pope officially set the St. Valentine feast day date to replace the pagan festival Lupercalia that celebrated fertility on February 15. In Europe, it was the day when birds began mating. Whatever the murky beginnings, one day isn’t enough.   Just as Earth Day is every day, shouldn’t love be ever present throughout the year?

In fact, for most species, there is innate sexual desire. Romantic courting and love seem optional to many, but the merging of DNA and genes is necessary for any species to continue to exist. That drive is strong.   

The myriad ways in which it can happen are incredibly creative. Here are a few techniques for your voyeuristic pleasure from “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice To All Creation”:

The carnivorous black hamlet fish lives in the tropics. An hour or two before sunset any fish in the mood cruises the edge of a reef to find a mate. The couple then takes turns playing male or female and swapping roles after each spawning.  

The female green spoon worm inhales her much smaller mate and he ends up in a special room within her reproductive chamber. There he sits and fertilizes the passing eggs.   

The male paper nautilus is so small that few have ever seen him, including his chosen mate. She must be surprised when she is hit with his fired penis that will live independently within her body. His is not the only one she holds. Paternity tests prove difficult.

A male redback spider offers the tip of his abdomen to his beloved. As she slowly eats him, he has time to place his pedipalps in her underbelly orifices to deliver sperm for fertilization.

A young male southern sea lion may join with his buddies to rush the beach, break up a harem, and mate with females.  He grabs a gal in his jaws, hurls her behind him and fends off would-be rescuers as he sits on her to keep her from escaping. 

So you see, love comes in many flavors. Still, from a natural perspective, the goal is the same:  Achieve a sexual encounter with the benefit of spreading your genes. Tallied together, all the love acts resulting in reproduction contribute to the larger goal of continuing existence for the human species. It’s evolution in process.  In Darwinian terms, survival of the fittest is not about who wins a testosterone-laden battle, but who lives long enough to reproduce. Often that entails refusing to stand and fight. Most animals know to stomp and snort and then retreat when the odds are not in their favor rather than perish or lose opportunities for future love. Some, especially young men, could learn from nature and remain in the gene pool.  

Here’s to love in all its manifestations, whether for reproduction or not. Despite a planetary overpopulation problem related to overuse of resources, love is good in February—or whenever.

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February 14, 2014