In this BBC Earth landmark series, The Mating Game explores the most remarkable, dramatic, unexpected and comical sexual strategies in the animal world.
Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, each episode demonstrates how the environment shapes and evolves intricate sets of rules for each player of The Mating Game, whether it be through thoughtful gestures, displays of power, deception or flamboyance.
Captured in 8K resolution, whatever the chosen strategy and on any stage, both underwater and on land, The Mating Game ensures all is laid bare to see in the race to win a partner.
The pursuit of a partner: it is a challenge that unites all animal life on earth. Here's a look at some of them:
The grasslands of our planet are some of the most challenging habitats for playing the Mating Game. They are an open stage where potential partners and jealous rivals can witness your every move and every failure. Where grass is in plentiful supply, so too is the competition. A mature zebra stallion on the Serengeti must fight for dominance and defend his mares from roaming bachelors.
Nursery Web Spiders
Others rely on sneakier tactics, and ingenuity is common. The nursery web spider tricks his way to his intended’s heart with offers of worthless gifts disguised as prized treasures. Here, the male spider is presenting the female with a nuptial gift, often food items wrapped in silk. It is thought that the gifts distract the females, reducing the risk of sexual cannibalism.
The waters off Hawaii are witness to the largest courtship battles on the planet. Each spring, humpback whales from across the northern Pacific arrive, looking for a mate. A single female can attract 20 or more males, and determines who becomes her mate by leading them in a spectacular chase. In a scene never witnessed before, the violence of the chase ends with moments of surprising tenderness as she allows the winner to take his hard-won place by her side.
Meeting places are hotspots for marine creatures looking for passion in the largest and least-populated habitat on earth. Few more so than coral reefs. Clown fish families are ruled by a sex-changing female and have a strict hierarchy where bullying keeps everyone in their place. Here, a “family” of Clownfish is actually two males vying for the favours of the single female, the largest fish in the anemone. The youngest and smallest male Clownfish “recruit” is bullied by all the larger males to stop him mating with the female.
Photo Credits: BBC Earth
Flatworms have one of the most bizarre mating ritual where they determine who fertilises whom by ‘penis fencing’. Here, a pair of flatworms mating are captured trying to stab and penetrate the other.
Watch the show promo here:
Catch more weird and wonderful animal sex strategies in The Mating Game on BBC Earth, available on StarHub channel 407 and BBC Player!