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Life Story: Courtship

Updated Tuesday 7th October 2014

It is time to win a mate. The stakes could not be higher: fail now and the journey of life is over.

A battle-scarred male Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) stands defiant. For males of breeding age, the conflict-ridden mating season inevitably brings injury, exhaustion and even death. South Georgia.  Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC/Theo Webb A battle-scarred male Antarctic fur seal

About the episode

Competition to win a partner has created both the most extraordinary beauty and life-threatening violence in nature. The stakes could not be higher: without a mate, the journey of life ends here... sometimes literally.

The male of the dazzling, aptly-named peacock jumping spider must pick his way between the bodies of failed suitors for his one chance to win a female’s affections. For the green turtle, it’s the female who risks her life: as males pile in to mate with her, she struggles beneath their combined weight, desperate for a breath of air at the surface.

But few will go as far as one unlikely architect. Diminutive and drab, a male pufferfish compensates for his lack of charisma by building the most complicated and perfect structure made by any animal – a spectacular submarine ‘crop circle’ in the sand – created to get himself noticed by a female.

This episode was first broadcast on Thursday 20th November 2014 on BBC One.


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