Secret ways animals say 'I love you'

Humans show their love in many different ways: they kiss, they hug, they write poetry, and the truly sick and twisted get matching Facebook accounts. Animals, however, typically stick to one display of love per species, and some are downright fascinating. Here are some of the coolest ways nature's wilder creations let the world know "this one's mine."

Albatross

When two albatrosses love each other very much, they express it via elaborate dance, and then via sword fight. They start by bobbing their heads up and down while circling around one another, which ultimately becomes a jockey for position in the epic battle to come. They then knock their beaks together, over and over, like French-kissing a block of wood. At various times, one albatross quits beak-fighting and talks to the other, with a rapid-fire beak waddle that sounds almost exactly like a giant woodpecker going to town on its favorite tree.

The cycle then repeats itself—more head-bobbing, more beak play, more gabbing, with the occasional honk of happiness to spice things up. This goes on until one albatross gets bored and suggests they go off and make babies. What's extra fascinating is that they don't just do this on the first date. Albatrosses tend to mate for life and, no matter how long they've been together, when it's time to mate, they perform this dance. It's as adorable as your Grandpa taking Grandma out to dinner every Saturday night and presenting her with a red rose every time. Only with more honking. Probably. We don't know your grandpa.

Seahorses

Adorable animal lovefests aren't exclusive to the cute, fuzzy, feathery types. The seahorse, for example, isn't what many would consider a "cute" animal (though shockingly progressive, given the male's willingness to be pregnant while the mother parties or becomes a seahorse CEO). But their love dance is nothing short of "d'awww." One seahorse initiates the dance by glowing in varying colors, which is basically a seahorse pick-up line. If it works, the male lets the female know he's ready to get down, and the two will begin to dance, linking tails and swimming around in circles with each other. After a period of time (which could be minutes, hours, or even days, depending on how smooth an operator the male is), the dance will culminate in babymaking. The two will lean back and lock stomachs, with their snouts intertwining and their bodies forming basically a heart shape. The female then transfers her eggs to the male, and the Circle of Seahorse Life begins anew.

Anglerfish

Hailing from the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, the anglerfish is perhaps the most famously disgusting animal of all time. And that goes double for the ways they show their love. Basically, those giant, toothed, light bulb-wielding monsters you see in nature documentaries and Finding Nemo are all females. The male anglerfish is, by comparison, nothing more than a tiny, harmless blob of a tadpole. When one of these blobs finds a lady, he makes the first move in a big way—by biting the female's side and literally attaching himself to her. Then, he begins to absorb himself into the female's body, slowly dissolving into sperm, until he's nothing but a tiny, baby-building lump, forever stuck inside an oblivious—and very pregnant—girlfriend. Hey, not every PDA has to look good on a goopy Valentine's Day card.

Snails

Snails, while less disgusting than anglerfish, still don't exactly scream "adorable." This goes double for the bizarre-yet-fascinating way they conduct the love train. For one thing, snails are hermaphroditic, so when two meet and hit it off, they need to first determine who's Mommy and who's Daddy. Luckily, they reach an easy compromise: both will be both. After a long, slow, dance, where the two snails rub antennas together for anywhere from two hours to half a day, each will stab the other with something called a "love dart"—a hard, sharp needle that pricks the snail's body near its female reproductive organs, fills it with sperm, and starts the egg-making process. Between the two proud parents, this dart can produce up to 200 babies at a time. If that isn't a house filled with love, we don't know what is.

Frigatebird

Let's focus on some cuter animals for a bit, like the frigatebird, whose public displays of affection are so perfectly suited to how humans view romance, it's a shock we didn't create this bird in a lab by mixing raven DNA with Love Potion #9.

The male half of this gorgeous birdie species sports a large red pouch around its neck, which comes into play when it's time to impress the ladies. When the male is ready to court, he inflates this pouch to a cartoonishly large degree—at its biggest, it dwarfs the bird himself—and waits to see which ladybirds, if any, will fall for him. But this isn't just a big, red blob hanging from the bird's feathery neck: its shape is distinctly heart-like, especially when its beak casts a shadow that forms the curve at the top of a heart. Ever seen one of those old cartoons where a guy sees a pretty girl and his eyes turn into giant, thumping hearts? Picture that, only in the throat, and less silly and more beautiful.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits

As we all know, rabbits celebrate their love by, well, multiplying like rabbits. But how does Bugs seduce Lola enough to even get to that point? As it turns out, Eastern Cottontail rabbits (which, for the article's sake, Bugs and Lola totally are) have a very entertaining—and almost violent—way of showing their love. In short, they love-fight: when attraction is in the air, the boy rabbit will chase the girl until she's had enough. Then, she turns around and all but wallops him in the face. Unless he's actually knocked unconscious, the male will turn around and give more chase, until he gets boxed in the face again. This continues until one bunny decides to end the foreplay and jump high in the air, signalling that they're in love. If the other rabbit feels the same, they too will jump into the air, and then Baby Wabbit Season can officially begin.

Elephants

Being perhaps the most emotionally complex creatures this side of us, it's no surprise that elephants have a myriad of ways to show their love for one another. They use their trunks to caress one another, as a display of platonic love and friendship. When it's time to find a broodmate (not everything is about mating with elephants, though it's still obviously super-important), a male and female will sword fight with their trunks and eventually intertwine them in a show of solidarity. Their loud trumpeting is often a sign of excitement and happiness, whether it be over a birth or simply having good company around. They're also huge on physical contact, always rubbing and touching one another or playing with each others' ears and tails, as a constant reminder to the other elephants that they're loved and appreciated.

In short, it's fascinating that the human hippie movement bombed so bad, because Dumbo and friends have been nailing it since the dawn of Elephant Time.