From the honeybee to the humpback whale, animals dance to show off to potential mates, canoodle with loved ones and even to tell family members the whereabouts of food. We count down eight of nature’s greatest dance moves.
The waggle dance of the honeybee
Up keeping honeybee society requires constant communication between hundreds of thousands of family members. On encountering a rich food source, a foraging bee must be able to give her nest mates precise directions about its whereabouts on return to the hive. The solution: an odd, abdomen-thrusting movement that signals the direction of the food in relation to the sun.
The enticing moves of the peacock spider
The mating dance of this tiny, flamboyant spider involves raising one pair of its hind legs up into the air and scuttling back and forth in front of a desired female. Native to Australia, the miniature peacock spider comes in 40 different colour patterns and includes leg clapping in its impressive dancing repertoire.
The shape-shifting dance of the Victoria’s riflebird
Birds of paradise, like the Victoria’s riflebird, have long been heralded as the animal kingdom’s best shape-shifters and move-makers. The birds are an astonishing example of an adaptive radiation – an evolution event where a lack of predators or competition for food leads to a burst of diverse and often unique lifeforms. Their vibrant colours, fancy appendages and killer dance moves are all to impress their female counterparts – who will keenly watch each display until a superior male hits the dancefloor.
Thompson Gazelles who stot
Stotting is a gazelle’s way of saying “you might as well give up the chase now because with dance moves like this, you’ve got no chance”. By prancing around defiantly in front of their would-be death, gazelles are signalling to the dogs that they are perfectly fit and able to outrun them. But why should the dogs pay attention? By giving up before the chase, dogs can save vital stores of energy that they require to tide them over until their next successful hunt.
The waltz of the humpback whale
On encountering a female whale, a male will initiate a sequence of slow and graceful dance moves. Like many aspects of whale behaviour – the waltz between a pair of humpbacks is rarely seen and little understood. However the dance is likely to be one of the first tentative steps towards a momentous breeding attempt.
The Spanish dancing sea slug
Not a true form of communication – this sea slug’s rhythmic gait led to its name, the Spanish dancer. Mesmerising yet slightly off-putting, these simple life forms switch between crawling across the ocean’s seabed and gracefully rippling across stretches of open water.
The mating dance of the weedy sea dragon
Decorated with weed-like appendages, these well camouflaged animals spend most of their time hiding amongst plants pretending to be seaweed. But when the mating season begins, males and females come to life in a synchronised mating duet. Unusually, the female gives her fertilised eggs to the male after the mating event. He’ll carry the developing young on the end of his tail until they are ready to hatch two months later.
A dancing troop of Andean flamingos
In a bizarre, co-ordinated courtship dance, Andean flamingos fill the usually lifeless Bolivian salt flats with dazzling displays of pink. Walking in formation, the birds stretch their necks up high and rapidly turn their heads back and forth in an attempt to impress groups of nearby females.