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10.8: Reproductive Behavior of Animals

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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So when does the peacock extend his tail?

Peafowl are best known for the male's extravagant tail. Obviously though, a peacock cannot have his tail extended continuously. It would make it very difficult to move around. And it may be very tiring. So when does the peacock extend his tail? The peacock displays his tail as part of courtship.

Mating and Courtship

Mating refers to the union of a male and female of the same species for reproduction. The relationship between mates varies by species. Adults may have many mates, or they may mate with just one individual. Mates may stay together only while mating, for an entire breeding season, or even for life. Females are likely to be more selective than males in choosing mates. In many species, males put on courtship displays to encourage females to choose them as mates. For example, to attract a mate, a male bowerbird builds an elaborate nest decorated with hundreds of small blue objects (see Figure below).

Bowerbird Decorating His Nest. A male bowerbird spends many hours collecting bits of blue glass and other small blue objects to decorate his nest. A female bowerbird inspects the nests of many males before choosing as a mate the male with the best nest.

Parental Care

In most species of fish, amphibians, and reptiles, parents provide no care to their offspring. In birds and mammals, on the other hand, parental care is common. Most often, the mother provides the care. However, in some species, both parents or just the father may be involved.

Parental care is generally longest and most involved in mammals. Besides feeding and protecting their offspring, parents may teach their offspring skills they will need to survive on their own. For example, meerkat adults teach their pups how to eat scorpions. They show the pups how to safely handle the poisonous insects and how to remove the stingers.


  • Behaviors relating to reproduction include mating, courtship, and parenting behaviors.


Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. Distinguish between monogamy and polygamy. Which is more common among animals?
  2. Distinguish between polygyny and polyandry. Provide examples of each.
  3. Provide examples of courtship behaviors.
  4. Describe signaling as a courtship behavior.
  5. What is meant by "testing partners for suitability"?


1. Describe an example of courtship behavior in animals.

2. Give examples of parental care.

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courtship Animal behavior that is intended to attract a mate.
mating The union of a male and female of the same species for reproduction.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Oct 24, 2016
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