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Animal behaviour

Red foxes fightingRed foxes fighting Many animals, from earthworms to whale sharks, lead simple lives. Their behaviour is limited and they only encounter others of their own species briefly to mate—although, even then, some kind of courtship process is involved. Other creatures have much more complex behaviour. They form groups, which can sometimes involve thousands of individuals, have contests for group supremacy, mates and territories, help each other when feeding or hunting, and even look after each other’s offspring.


Living things strive to survive so that they can breed and pass on their genes to their offspring. An animal must choose its breeding partner carefully. Courtship behaviour and mating displays pick out a partner of the same species, the opposite sex, sexually mature, strong, fit and healthy. This increases the chances of the offspring being fit and healthy, too.Two albatrosses perform their courtship Two albatrosses perform their courtship "dance".

A pair of albatrosses produces only one chick every two years. So it is important that each parent knows the other is strong and healthy. The two go through a series of actions called a courtship ritual. They extend wings, bob heads, strut about, click beaks and make various groaning noises. If one partner fails to respond correctly, it may be ill or injured and so less suitable as a parent.

Animals of the same species living in different regions may have varying “dialects” in the calls they use.

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