Search This Blog

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top 10 Animal Performers

No. 10 - King Bird of Paradise, Mating Display

Tiptoeing through the islands of New Guinea one might stumble upon this colorful male bird dancing and singing his way into the hearts of whatever females happen to be nearby. If the colorful plumage and emerald-tipped wire feathers of this animal aren't enough to seduce the lady birds, then his performance just might. He begins by bouncing eagerly on a tree branch and then starts swoosh his tail. Next, he puffs up his abdominal feathers to the point that he becomes a near-perfect sphere, and then draws up on his long tail wires to flash his green racket feathers above his head. But wait, there's more. Finally, he swings his body around the tree branch in one of the most impressive displays of arboreal acrobatics known to man or beast.

No. 9 - Spinner Dolphin, Aquatic Acrobat

It's not uncommon to see schools of dolphins swimming in formation throughout the world's oceans, but the spinner dolphin makes our countdown for his amazing ability to put on a synchronized acrobatic show. With schools numbering in the hundreds or thousands, spinner dolphins can often be seen leaping out of the water and spinning in the air several times before diving triumphantly back into the water. Sometimes, they repeat these aerial maneuvers many times in a row, seemingly inexhaustible. The reasons for the leaps and spins are unclear, but they may be a way to attract mates, demonstrate fitness or simply have some fun.

No. 8 - Red-Tailed Hawk, Romance on the Wing

Red-tailed hawks are loyal lovers, mating with one individual for many years. There are a variety of ecological pressures for this, but monogamy may also result from the fact that the choreography involved with mating is too complex to rehearse with more than one individual. First, the pair soars high in the sky to form large circles in formation with one another. Then, the male makes a steep dive downward, only to fly straight up again toward his mate. He repeats this stunt several times, presumably to put his lover in the mood, and then descends on the female from above, locking talons with her as they twirl majestically toward the ground to begin the act of copulation.

No. 7 - Katydid Chorus

A close relative of the cricket, the North American katydid gets its name from the rhythms of its nightly chorus, which sound like "Katie did" or Kate-she-did." The scientific name for this chorus is stridulation, which means producing a sound by rubbing two body parts together. In the case of the katydid, stridulation occurs when the animal rubs a file-shaped appendage against a scraper-like area of its front wings. But the katydid chorus is about more than just scrapers and files. It is the katydids' language of love.

No. 6 - Sperm Whale, Deep-Sea Diver

For diving abilities, no other mammal comes close to the sperm whale, which can descend at a rate of 10 feet per second. It can also reach a depth of about 4,000 feet and remain submerged for up to two hours. So, how does an animal so big plunge so deep with such ease? The secret may lie in the animal's distinctive spermaceti organ, which is a wax-filled cavity in its big box-like head. The spermaceti organ makes up about a third of the animal's overall length, and evidence suggests that it may serve as a buoyancy aid that adjusts with changes in pressure, making rapid descent possible.

No. 5 - Mockingbird, the Vocalist

One of the most gifted vocalists in the animal kingdom is the mockingbird, a New World bird known as much for its powerful pipes as for its ability to mimic the vocalizations of other bird species. There are several species of mockingbird, but the most well-known in the U.S. is the Northern Mockingbird, a long-tailed passerine that is famous for serenading lovers on warm summer nights, especially during a full moon. It sings long and loud. It also easily incorporates the voices of other birds and even insects into its evening song. And perhaps, most impressively, the mockingbird continues to expand its repertoire of music throughout its entire life.

No. 4 - Honeybee, the Dancer

One of the most altruistic acts in the animal kingdom is the waggle dance, performed upon a honeybee's return to the hive for the purpose of letting others know the location of food and water. It starts with an in-flight formation of a figure eight, and then progresses to a series of waggles. The dance tells a lot about the food or water source; the length of the waggle portion of the performance conveys the food's distance from the hive, while the enthusiasm with which the bee waggles gives a sense of the food's value. It is an artful labor of honeybee love.

No. 3 - Flamingo Dance Party

A flamingo dance party is a spectacular sight to behold. It starts with a group of males and females clustered together with their heads held high. Suddenly, the birds begin an energetic jig in perfect formation with each other, all the while turning their heads from side to side in rhythmic unison. This unusual mating ritual also includes a complex series of dance steps, in which all members change direction at the same time, as well as preening and loud honking. Equally impressive is the size of these flocks, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands.

No. 2 - Peacock Courtship Display

There may be nothing more beautiful than the courtship display of the peacock, the commonly used name for the male peafowl. With its blue-green plumage, this animal is a beautiful bird even when not in display mode, but becomes a work of art as it presents itself to a peahen. Its tail feathers open up to form a long spectacular train spread out like a fan that touches the ground on either side and makes up about 60 percent of the bird's total body length. The train is not actually the true tail, but is made up of tail coverts adorned with a colorful "eye" at the tip. Peacocks gather in groups called "parties," and females seem to choose mates based on their appearance as well as their strutting and vocal abilities.

No. 1 - Red-Crowned Crane, the Dance of Love

Is there anything more beautiful than a pair of red-crowned cranes in love? Perhaps, but when these birds come together, they put on a performance more spectacular than anything you'll see on Broadway. Also known as the Japanese and the Manchurian crane, these animals form lifelong romantic partnerships that begin with a courtship consisting of bowing, posing, bobbing, pirouetting and leaping excitedly in the air. When they really get worked up, they can be seen tossing sticks, leaves and grass high into the air and pecking at the debris as it falls to the ground. Taking the top spot in our countdown, this bird is an elegant performer and a symbol of good luck and happiness throughout its range.

No comments:

Post a Comment