It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air…maybe right now you’re loving Canada’s current standing in the Olympics, or perhaps it’s love you have for that chocolate you’re eating right now.
For us at the Vancouver Aquarium, our team of 400+ staffers have some love to share as well – with the diverse conservation, research, education, and animal care work that we do, and with the animals we care for each day. With so much love around, today seems like a great day to share some interesting trivia about the relationships of some of the aquatic creatures that call the Aquarium home.
For example, it might be commonly known that African penguins are monogamous…usually. Unlike many others in the animal kingdom, African penguin pairs usually mate for life, although a few don’t. But regardless of whether or not they do, the male and female share egg-care duties – they’ll take turns incubating their eggs for 40 days, after the female lays a clutch of two eggs in sand or in guano (poop) burrows.
For some animals, like octopus, mating can mark the beginning of the end of the life cycle. The giant Pacific octopus’s sperm package, called spermatophore, can be a metre long and contain up to seven billion sperm. Because of this, mating between and octopus pair can take some time (it can take at least an hour to deliver one spermatophore completely). These octopus are often joined for a mating session for an average of four hours. It can also happen multiple times, sometimes over a period of days. For the males, however, their life cycle is such that mating marks the beginning of the end for them (similarly to other animals such as salmon).
Although the majority of invertebrates (spineless animals) such as octopuses reproduce sexually by copulation, other invertebrates use the “broadcast” method of where both male and female gametes are released into the water in enormous quantities and are left to unite by chance. Many invertebrates are hermaphroditic, with both male and female sex organs, but they don’t usually self-fertilize – they typically look for another individual to exchange sperm with.
Other invertebrates reproduce asexually, such as corals and hydroids, some sea anemones and certain worms and sea squirts. Some invertebrate species can even change gender at different periods in their lives! For example, some shrimp species start life as males and later become females.
If you enjoy gaining a more intimate knowledge of aquatic animals, this Valentine’s Day, draw closer to aquatic life as you get up close with your special someone. Vancouver Aquarium Up Close, on until April 30, is the ideal opportunity to sidle up near some of the most beloved animals at the Aquarium, and to take a journey that will help you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of these beguiling creatures. Learn more here.