CLOSE
iStock
iStock

10 Monogamous Animals That Just Want To Settle Down

iStock
iStock

They can't put a ring on it, but when these animals find a mate, they're ready to commit.

1. Gibbons

The furry, tree-swinging gibbon doesn't monkey around with a lot of partners in its 35- to 40-year lifespan. Males and females form strong bonds and exhibit a surprising amount of relationship equality as they raise a family. They care for their young together, groom each other, and spend quality time vocalizing and hanging out. But not every relationship is perfect. Cheating, breakups, and remarriage all occur within the gibbon community. Sexting and online dating, however, do not. Yet.

2. Schistosoma mansoni worms

What's a nice girl like you doing in a human like this? There's nothing romantic about Schistosoma Mansoni, a parasitic flatworm that uses freshwater snails to get to humans. Once it attaches to human skin, it usually penetrates the epidermis through a hair follicle and deposits larvae that feed on blood in the lymphatic system and lungs. When the larvae migrate to the heart, they start looking for The One. Male and female larvae monogamously pair off and eventually travel to the mesenteric veins that drain blood from the intestines. Together, they reach sexual maturity and produce about 300 eggs per day. Postively heartwarming.

3. Wolves

It's usually "'til death do us part" for wolves. In the wild, they start breeding by the age of two. Mated pairs build their wolf pack by having a new litter every year. (Most wolves don't experience reproductive senescence, either, and can have babies until they die.) So when you see a lone wolf, have some sympathy. He's single and looking for love, mourning his dead partner, or, in extreme cases, nursing a breakup with the pack.

4. Beavers

55019-ISTOCK

Only about 3 percent of mammals are socially monogamous, but leave it to beavers to show us how it's done. After mating, the rodents spend as much time maintaining their relationships as they do their dams and lodges. The males and females co-parent their young and stay together until one partner dies. Attached beavers occasionally philander, but it's not enough to break up the family.

5. Shingleback skinks

Unlike most reptiles, the shingleback skink of Australia only has eyes for one mate. Males make a series of moves—including caressing and licking females—before copulating. Courtship takes months, but partnered bliss can last over 20 years.

6. Barn owls

Some 90 percent of birds are socially monogamous, but that doesn't mean they're completely faithful to one mate. Barn owls, however, put all their eggs in one basket. Males woo females with screeches and gifts of dead mice. If the female responds with croaking sounds, she's basically saying, "I do."

7. Bald eagles 

pair of bald eagles
iStock

Long-distance relationships aren't easy, but bald eagles thrive in them. The birds fly solo during winter and migration, reconnecting with their mates each breeding season. Most eagles pair off by the age of five and stay together at least 20 years.

8. French angelfish

pair of french angelfish
iStock

Don't let the name fool you. These lovers are aggressive fighters that do almost everything as a pair—hunting, hanging out in the reef, and defending their territory. And you thought your ex was clingy.

9. Octopods

The brainiest invertebrate of them all usually keeps others at eight arms' length. But when it's time to mate, they dedicate their lives to one partner. Well, sort of. Octopuses only live one or two years, so they spawn once and then die shortly after. But the Pacific striped octopus is an exception, with the ability to lay multiple clutches of eggs. Instead of mating once at a distance to avoid being eaten, these creatures mate face to face a number of times and even appear to kiss and fondle each other's suckers. Get a room, you two!

10. Swans

pair of swans
iStock

We've already established that birds of a feather like to flock together, but the commitment of the male swan really stands out. In addition to helping their mates build nests, they're one of only two male birds in the Anatidae family that share egg incubation duties.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
iStock
iStock

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER