New Guinea, world’s most diverse flowers

This 2014 video says about itself:

Some of the spectacular diverse plant life of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

From the University of Zurich in Zwitserland:

New Guinea has the world’s richest island flora

August 5, 2020

Summary: New Guinea is the most floristically diverse island in the world, an international collaboration has shown. The study presents a list of almost 14,000 plant species, compiled from online catalogues and verified by plant experts. The results are invaluable for research and conservation, and also underline the importance of expert knowledge in the digital era.

Almost 20 times the size of Switzerland, New Guinea is the world’s largest tropical island. It features a complex mosaic of ecosystems from lowland jungles to high-elevation grasslands with peaks higher than Mont Blanc. Botanists have long known that this mega-diverse wilderness area is home to a large number of plant species. Efforts to identify and name thousands of plants collected in New Guinea and archived in herbaria all over the world have been ongoing since the 17th century.

However, since researchers have worked mostly independently from each other, a great uncertainty remains as to the exact number of plant species, with conflicting estimates ranging from 9,000 to 25,000. “Compared to other areas like Amazonia, for which plant checklists were recently published, New Guinea remained the ‘Last Unknown’,” says Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Prof. Jordi Bascompte in the UZH Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies. Under his lead, 99 scientists from 56 institutions and 19 countries have now built the first expert-verified checklist for the 13,634 vascular plant species of New Guinea and its surrounding islands.

Merging databases and human knowledge

The researchers began their large-scale collaborative effort by compiling a list of plant names from online catalogues, institutional repositories and datasets curated by taxonomists. After standardizing the scientific names, 99 experts on New Guinea flora checked almost 25,000 species names derived from over 700,000 individual specimens. For this, they reviewed the list of original names in their plant family of expertise and assessed whether these names were correctly assigned in the online platforms. Finally, an independent comparison was performed between the list accepted by experts and a list contained in Plants of the World Online for New Guinea.

Tremendous, mostly endemic plant diversity

The resulting checklist contains 13,634 plants, demonstrating that New Guinea has the world’s richest island flora, with about 20% more species than Madagascar or Borneo. By far the most species-rich family are the orchids and almost a third of the species are trees. One particularly remarkable finding is that 68% of the plants are endemic, they are only found in the region. “Such high endemic species richness is unmatched in tropical Asia,” says Cámara-Leret, “It means that Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, the two states into which the island is divided, have a unique responsibility for the survival of this irreplaceable biodiversity.”

Foundation for research and protection

The new authoritative checklist will improve the accuracy of biogeographic and ecological studies, help focus DNA sequencing on species-rich groups with high endemism, and facilitate the discovery of more species by taxonomists. Thousands of specimens remain unidentified in the collections and many unknown species have yet to be discovered in the wild. “We estimate that in the next 50 years, 3,000 to 4,000 species will be added,” says Michael Kessler, co-author of the study and scientific curator of the Botanical Garden of the University of Zurich. These efforts will be important for conservation planning and modelling the impact of changes in climate and land use.

The collaboration also underscores that expert knowledge is still essential in the digital era, reliance on online platforms alone would have erroneously inflated species counts by one fifth. However, many of the New Guinea plants experts are already or soon to be retired, and almost half of them are non-residents. The researchers therefore advocate building a critical mass of resident plant taxonomists.

Policy-wise, the study shows that long-term institutional and financial support is critical if significant advances are to be made over the next decades. “Our work demonstrates that international collaborative efforts using verified digital data can rapidly synthesize biodiversity information. This can serve as a model for accelerating research in other hyper-diverse areas such as Borneo,” says Cámara-Leret. “Such initiatives pave the way for the grand challenge of conserving the richest island flora of the world.”

New New Guinean crocodile species discovery

This 2018 video is called National Geographic I Super Giant Crocodile I Documentary.

Another, 8 July 2018, video used to say about itself:

All Crocodile Species

Crocodiles (subfamily Crocodylinae) or true crocodiles are large aquatic reptiles that live throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Crocodylinae, all of whose members are considered true crocodiles, is classified as a biological subfamily.

A broader sense of the term crocodile, Crocodylidae that includes Tomistoma, is not used here. The term crocodile here applies to only the species within the subfamily of Crocodylinae.

Although they appear similar, crocodiles, alligators and the gharial belong to separate biological families.

1 – American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
Throughout the Caribbean Basin, including many of the Caribbean islands and South Florida.
2 – Slender-snouted crocodile (Crocodylus cataphractus)
Central and Western Africa
3 – Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius)
Colombia and Venezuela
4 – Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni)
Northern Australia
5 – Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis)
Endemic to the Philippines
6 – Morelet’s crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii)
Atlantic regions of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala
7 – Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
Sub-saharan Africa
8 -New Guinea crocodile (Crocodylus novaeguineae)
The island of New Guinea
9 – Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris)
The Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries
10 – Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Throughout Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and surrounding waters.
11 – Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer)
Found only in the Zapata Swamp and Isle of Youth of Cuba
12 – Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis)
Indonesia, Brunei, East Malaysia and southern Indochina.
13 – West African crocodile (Crocodylus suchus)
Western and Central Africa
14 – Dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis)
Western Africa

In 2018, according to the video, these were all crocodile species.

Not yet, as turns out now.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

New species of crocodile discovered in museum collections

Crocodylus halli named after late scientist who started investigating the reptile’s lineage

September 25, 2019

Summary: By looking at 90-year-old crocodile skulls in museum collections and double-checking with live specimens at a zoological park in Florida, researchers have just discovered a new species of ten-foot-long croc. The new species, Crocodylus halli, is from the southern part of New Guinea, and until now, scientists had thought it was the same species that lived on the northern part of the island.

By this point, scientists have a pretty good handle on what kinds of big animals exist. Researchers still turn up new species of rats and insects, but most animals bigger than your hand are old news. But by looking at 90-year-old crocodile skulls in museum collections and double-checking with live specimens at a zoological park in Florida, researchers have just discovered a new species of ten-foot-long croc.

The new crocodile, described in the journal Copeia, is from New Guinea, the bigger-than-Texas tropical island just north of Australia. Scientists had known that New Guinea was home to a unique species of crocodile since the New Guinea Crocodile was officially described in 1928, but since then, researchers have wondered if the island was actually home to two separate species, one in the north and one in the south. This new study answers the question: yes.

Chris Murray, Assistant Professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, and Caleb McMahan, scientist at the Field Museum, started the project after hearing a talk in 2014 that posed questions that they had already been considering. That talk was essentially soliciting help in carrying on an unfinished investigation into these crocodiles that had been kicked off by another curious scientist, Philip Hall. Hall, a University of Florida researcher who passed away before his work could diagnose the distinctions among these crocodiles, had spotted key differences in the way the two groups of crocs nest and mate. This groundwork laid by Hall peaked the interests of McMahan and Murray, whose research focuses less on animal behavior and more on the subtle variations that can be found on different animals’ skeletons. What excites these two is how an analysis of small details can reveal a big enough difference between animals to separate them as species.

“Chris does a lot of work on crocodilians, and I do a lot of evolutionary work, often with morphology, or the animals’ physical features. Chris studies morphology too, so it was continuing along with a lot of the projects we were doing, but then lo and behold, it’s this brand new crocodile species,” says McMahan, a senior author of the paper.

Murray and McMahan examined 51 so-called Crocodylus novaeguineae skulls, analyzing differences between crocodiles that lived in the northern and southern parts of the island. To get 51 New Guinea crocs, the researchers had to look at specimens from seven different museum collections: the Field Museum, Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science, Florida Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, Queensland Museum, and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Murray, the paper’s lead author, notes that access to these collections “highlight the beauty of natural history museums. We didn’t have to go to Papua New Guinea and collect a bunch of specimens, which would have been incredibly difficult anyhow, and very expensive.”

“There are new species out there but a lot of them are sitting in drawers and cabinets in museums, and it just takes time to look at them and figure that out,” says McMahan.

After an extensive analysis of these hulking skulls scattered throughout the world’s collections, the team capped off their research by visiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida. They wanted to see if the stark differences found in their research were as recognizable to the eye as they were within the data. “They have live individuals of what’s called novaeguineae, and we were able to look at those and say, ‘Oh yeah, this matches the north and this matches the south!’ I thought that was super cool,” says McMahan. After spending so much time on their analysis, the visual differences between the two species are easily recognizable to them in living crocs as well as skull specimens. “We could even look at a skull that they had there and tell what river it came from. So our analyses really did a good job at teasing apart where these things are from,” adds Murray.

The northern and southern crocodiles proved different enough that the researchers were able to declare the ones from the south separate species, named Crocodylus halli for Philip Hall, the late scientist who sowed the seeds for the project. The team adds that understanding these populations as separate species opens the door for more thorough conservation assessments. “It could be that when we consider crocs on the whole island, they might be okay, but if we start looking at a species north of the highlands and one south of the highlands you might find more habitat degradation and population threats in one over the other. This highlights the importance of attention to ecology and conservation for both lineages,” says McMahan. Similar work will also have to be done in accurately identifying populations within zoos around the world.

This long-coming discovery would not be possible without an energetic, culture of collaboration within the team and the broader scientific community. McMahan and Murray see their work as part of a broader effort to distinguish these two crocodiles, and are happy that their analysis couples well with Hall’s previous work. “The nice thing is that here we’ve got differences in the morphology, we’ve got ecological differences, they’re separated by a mountain range, I think the synthesis of all of that is what really builds the case that these two crocodile entities are very different from each other,” says McMahan.

Naming the crocodile came easy to the researchers, who were eager to honor the scientist who kicked off the investigation into the animals. “I think it was really special for me in particular, I’ve been reading his work since the beginning of my career in academia, in my first year as a Master’s student, so to come full circle and help contribute to his work was meaningful,” says Murray. “Being able to name the thing that he initially pondered after him was even more meaningful.”

The team also notes that their passion is in the curiosity of new questions and executing the methodology of the work. There was no expectation of a new species discovery, just an earnest continuation of Hall’s investigation. “For us, given the awesome ecological work and investigative work that Hall did on these crocs, it seemed fitting to name this new species after him,” says McMahan.

Bird-of-paradise evolution, new study

This 2015 video says about itself:

Bird Of Paradise: Appearances COUNT! | Animal Attraction | BBC Earth

In the tropical forests of New Guinea, one male is dedicated to making an unforgettable first impression. Taken from Animal Attraction.

From the University of Vienna in Austria:

The evolution of bird-of-paradise sex chromosomes revealed

April 1, 2019

Birds-of-paradise are a group of songbird species, and are known for their magnificent male plumage and bewildering sexual display. Now, an international collaborative work involving Dept. of Molecular Evolution and Development of University of Vienna, Zhejiang University of China, and Swedish Museum of Natural History analyzed all together 11 songbird species genomes, including those of five bird-of-paradise species, and reconstructed the evolutionary history of their sex chromosomes.

Birds have an opposite type of sex chromosomes to that of mammals. That is, females have one Z chromosome and one female-specific W chromosome, while males have two Z chromosomes. The W chromosome is much smaller and gene-poor, similar to the Y chromosome of human. By sequencing the female songbird genomes, the researchers now uncovered the details of how Z and W chromosomes had become separated for their evolutionary trajectories, and which factors dictate the fates of the genes on the W chromosome.

Junk DNA facilitated the separation of sex chromosomes

Sex chromosomes are not supposed to have genetic exchange with each other for most of the regions. That is, they evolve along separate evolutionary trajectories; so that sex-determining genes will not be recombined from one sex chromosome to the other, then appear in the opposite sex. The researchers showed that such suppression of recombination has occurred at four time points between the songbird sex chromosomes. This has reshaped four consecutive sex-linked regions to form a gradient of time-associated divergence pattern, termed ‘evolutionary strata’. Despite the dramatically diverse phenotypes of all extant 5,000 songbird species, all of them seem to share the same evolutionary history of these recombination suppression events. What has caught the attention of the researchers is, one family of repetitive elements (called ‘CR1 transposon’), presumably non-functional DNA sequences have massively accumulated at a mutation hotspot located between the two neighboring evolutionary strata. This brought the hypotheses that junk DNAs may have triggered the loss of recombination between sex chromosomes, and subjected them for separate evolution paths.

Only dosage-sensitive genes survived on the W chromosome

Once recombination is lost on the W chromosome (Z chromosomes can still recombine only in males), genes cannot resist the invasion of deleterious mutations, as normally they can be effectively purged by recombination. This is the price of sex that the sex chromosome (either the human Y or the bird W) has to pay. Nowadays only a handful of genes are retained functional on the songbird W chromosomes due to such long-term genetic erosion. The researchers found the retained genes tend to be more broadly or highly expressed than any other genes that have become lost in non-avian species, where both sets of genes still exist. This indicates that the retained genes have more important functions than others, and losing them, even when the Z-linked gene still exists in female, is too costly for the species to bear a reduced dosage.

Female birds-of-paradise, what do they love?

This video says about itself:

Bird Of Paradise Courtship Spectacle | Planet Earth | BBC Earth

Deep in the forests of New Guinea there is a rich variety of life, each more bizarre than the last. One such spectacle is the male Bird of Paradise who appears to go to extraordinary lengths to attract a mate.

From Cornell University in the USA:

Among birds-of-paradise, good looks are not enough to win a mate

November 20, 2018

Male birds-of-paradise are justly world famous for their wildly extravagant feather ornaments, complex calls, and shape-shifting dance moves — all evolved to attract a mate. New research published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology suggests for the first time that female preferences drive the evolution of physical and behavioral trait combinations that may also be tied to where the male does his courting: on the ground or up in the trees. There are 40 known species of birds-of-paradise, most found in New Guinea and northern Australia.

Study lead author Russell Ligon, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, suggests females are evaluating not only how great the male looks but, simultaneously, how well he sings and dances. Female preferences for certain combinations of traits result in what the researchers call a “courtship phenotype” — bundled traits determined by both genetics and environment.

Study authors examined 961 video clips and 176 audio clips in the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library archive as well as 393 museum specimens from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. They conclude that certain behaviors and traits are correlated:

  • As the number of colors on a male increase so do the number of different sounds he makes.
  • The most elaborate dancers also have a large repertoire of sounds.
  • Males that display in a group (called a lek) have more colors to stand out better visually amid the competition.

Because female birds-of-paradise judge male quality based on a combination of characteristics, the study suggests that males may be able to evolve new features while still maintaining their overall attractiveness to females — there’s room to “experiment” in this unique ecological niche where there are few predators to quash exuberant courtship displays.

The researchers found that where a bird-of-paradise puts on his courtship display also makes a difference.

“Species that display on the ground have more dance moves than those displaying in the treetops or the forest understory,” explains Edwin Scholes, study co-author and leader of the Cornell Lab’s Bird-of-Paradise Project. On the dark forest floor, males may need to up their game to get female attention.”

Above the canopy, where there is less interference from trees and shrubs, males sang more complex notes, where they are more likely to be heard. But their dances were less elaborate — perhaps a nod to the risks of cutting footloose on a wobbly branch.

New Guinea, a paradise for birds

This video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA says about itself:

7 October 2018

The Birds-of-Paradise Project presents “Tanah Papua: A Paradise for Birds”.

Indonesia’s provinces of Papua and West Papua on the island of New Guinea make up the Land of Papua, or “Tanah Papua” in the Indonesian language. This region supports one of the only remaining large tropical forests in the world and is home to nearly half of Indonesia’s biodiversity. Over 600 species of birds are found in Papua, including 27 bird-of-paradise species, many of which live nowhere else on earth. Global interest in Papua’s birdlife is leading to increased opportunity for wildlife tourism and bringing newfound economic benefits to local communities. Sustainable development is not only important for the future of Papua’s forests and people, but also for the world.

The Cornell Lab’s Birds-of-Paradise Project is working with the Governments of Papua and West Papua and other international partners to further science, engagement and conservation of the region’s biodiversity with a focus on the birds-of-paradise.

New bird-of-paradise species discovered?

The raised cape of the newly discovered western male (left) is crescent shaped and unlike the oval shape of the widespread Superb Bird-of-Paradise (right) found throughout most of New Guinea. Left image © Tim Laman ML 62126951. Right image © Ed Scholes ML 458003

The raised cape of the newly discovered western male bird-of-paradise (left) is crescent shaped and unlike the oval shape of the widespread Superb Bird-of-Paradise (right) found throughout most of New Guinea. Left image © Tim Laman ML 62126951. Right image © Ed Scholes ML 458003.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Dance Moves Support Evidence for New Bird-of-Paradise Species

30 Jun 2017

The Superb Bird-of-Paradise—the shape-shifting black bird of central New Guinea that woos its mate with an iridescent blue “smiley-face” dance—has an equally superb cousin in the isolated mountains of Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Peninsula in the island’s far west. Scientist Ed Scholes and photographer Tim Laman, with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Birds-of-Paradise Project, have now visually documented the distinct differences between the western population in the Arfak Mountains and the more common form found elsewhere on the island. Both believe the western form should be considered a new species.

“The courtship dance is different. The vocalizations are different. Even the shape of the displaying male is different,” says Scholes. “For centuries, people thought the Superb Bird-of-Paradise in the mountains of the Bird’s Head region was a little different from the other populations throughout the rest of New Guinea, but no one had ever documented its display in the 200 plus years this bird has been known to occur there.”

“Even after many trips to the region, we’d never seen the Arfak birds do their courtship display,” says Birds-of-Paradise Project co-leader Tim Laman. “When we finally located a display site and saw a male open his cape for the first time, what we saw was a complete surprise!”

When expanded for courtship display, the western male’s raised cape creates a completely different appearance—crescent-shaped with pointed tips rather than the oval shape of the widespread form of the species. The way the western male dances for the female is also is distinctive, being smooth instead of bouncy.

Scholes and Laman have been studying and filming birds-of-paradise behavior in the Arfak Mountains for the past 13 years. They first uncovered this population’s unique courtship behaviors in June 2016 and returned again this year to gather additional documentation for a forthcoming scientific paper.

A recently published independent genetic study confirms the visual and behavioral evidence collected by Scholes and Laman. A team of researchers from Sweden and Australia used DNA samples from museum specimens to examine the evolutionary relationships among Superb Bird-of-Paradise forms throughout New Guinea. Their research, published online in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, found that the western form is more genetically distinct from the widespread form than previously thought. They, too, say the western population should be recognized as a full species called Lophorina neidda inopinata.

“The timing of this DNA-based study is perfect,” said Ed Scholes, “because it is great to have our field observations supported by solid genetic evidence. We really appreciate this in-depth study of the evolutionary relationships among the different forms of Superb Bird-of-Paradise.”

The Cornell Lab’s Birds-of-Paradise Project ( is a research and education initiative to document, interpret, and protect the birds-of-paradise, their native environments, and the other biodiversity of the New Guinea region—one of the largest remaining tropical wildernesses on the planet.

Bird of paradise courtship video

This video says about itself:

Bird Of Paradise Courtship Spectacle – Planet Earth – BBC Earth

27 March 2017

Deep in the forests of New Guinea there is a rich variety of life, each more bizarre than the last. One such spectacle is the male Bird of Paradise which appears to go to extraordinary lengths to attract a mate.

Lorikeets, originally from New Guinea?

This video from Australia says about itself:

Lorikeet Feeding Frenzy

22 November 2012

The feeding of the Rainbow Lorikeets at Bungalow Bay Koala Village which is on the North-east side of Magnetic island, just off the coast of Townsville, Queensland.

From Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 90, September 2015, Pages 34–48:

Molecular phylogenetics suggests a New Guinean origin and frequent episodes of founder-event speciation in the nectarivorous lories and lorikeets (Aves: Psittaciformes)


We report the first DNA sequence-based phylogeny of parrots known as lories and lorikeets.

The group is inferred to have originated within the last 10 million years in New Guinea.

Dispersal and founder-event speciation have been important in their diversification.

Dispersal appears to have been primarily ‘downstream’ from New Guinea and Australia.

Some genus level changes to the group’s systematics are recommended.


The lories and lorikeets (Aves: Loriinae: Loriini) are a readily recognizable, discrete group of nectarivorous parrots confined to the Indo-Pacific region between Wallace’s Line and the Pitcairn Island group in the central-east Pacific Ocean. We present the first phylogenetic analysis of all currently recognized genera in the group using two mitochondrial and five nuclear loci.

Our analyses suggest a New Guinean origin for the group at about 10 million years ago (95% HPD 4.8–14.8) but this origin must be interpreted within the context of that island’s complicated, recent geological history. That is, the origin and early diversification of the group may have taken place as New Guinea’s Central Cordillera arose and the final constituent terranes that form present-day New Guinea were accreted. The latter activity may have promoted dispersal as a key element in the group’s history.

We have detected several instances of dispersal out of New Guinea that we argue constitute instances of founder-event speciation. Some phenotypically cohesive genera are affirmed as monophyletic but other genera are clearly in need of taxonomic dismantlement and reclassification. We recognize Parvipsitta Mathews, 1916 for two species usually placed in Glossopsitta and we advocate transfer of Chalcopsitta cardinalis into Pseudeos Peters, 1935. Other non-monophyletic genera such as Charmosyna, Psitteuteles and, probably, Trichoglossus, require improved taxon sampling and further phylogenetic analysis before their systematics can be resolved. Cursory examination of trait mapping across the group suggests that many traits are ancestral and of little use in determining genus-level systematics.

Lorikeet and lori family tree, according to new research

New birds-of paradise video

This video from the USA says about itself:

Dec 21, 2012

This inspiring footage of the Birds-of-Paradise project celebrates the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s long-standing tradition of documenting and sharing information about the natural world. Thanks to you, that tradition continues. We hope you’ll keep watching, listening, and exploring with us to improve the understanding and protection of birds and biodiversity around the globe. Filmed and photographed by Tim Laman. To make a gift to the Cornell Lab visit

Animals’ Valentine’s Day

This video is called History of the Holidays: History of Valentines Day.

Valentine’s Day, according to Wikipedia:

Valentine’s Day or Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated on February 14 by many people throughout the world. In the English-speaking countries, it is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine’s cards, presenting flowers, or offering confectionery.

This video is called David Attenborough – Animal behaviour of the bowerbird – BBC wildlife.

Crafty male bowerbirds fabricate staged scenes to make themselves look bigger than they really are: here.

From National Wildlife magazine in the USA:

Animal Valentines

Trickery, hermaphroditism and scented dung: For these species, courtship is hardly a long walk on the beach

02-01-2010 // NW Staff

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of romance and the art of courtship, and although it’s debatable whether romantic love exists outside the human species (and cynics might say within it), wild animals have courtship nailed down. They might not be giving roses and writing love poems, but they have some amazing rituals all their own:

* On warm, romantic summer nights, male fireflies flash their lights while flying—using a code that lets females know what species they belong to—then wait for the females to flash back from hiding places in vegetation. When a female lights up with desire, males zero in on her with hopes of finding a willing mate. But romantics, beware: The female of one firefly species copies the flashes of the females of species different from her own. When a hopeful male shows up, the mimic eats him, then goes on to mate with a male of her own species.

* In looking for a mate, male meadow voles—grassland rodents that look like mice with short tails—prefer females that have just given birth. Females are most receptive when males catch them only hours after giving birth. These females will mate after only about 5 minutes of courtship, compared to up to 90 minutes for other females.

* The mating inclinations of male bower birds, native to Australia and New Guinea, are every woman’s dream: He’s an excellent carpenter but also a fabulous decorator. He builds a stick structure called a bower and then decorates it to impress eligible females. Often he picks a monochromatic color scheme for his decor, which can include everything from shells, feathers, flowers and even bits of string, plastic and other human-made items. Only if the house and its decor are good enough will a female—and perhaps even more than one—choose him for a mate (an example from which some nonfeathered bipeds might well learn).

* Some animals can be both sexes at once. This double-gender condition is called hermaphroditism. Some sea slug species can be male, female or hermaphroditic. With so many sexual options, these slimy mollusks often engage in orgies of 20 or more slugs of various persuasions. Barnacles—marine creatures that live in shells fastened to objects such as reefs or wharfs—are also hermaphrodites. Since they are stuck in one spot, they have a special strategy for sealing the deal. Each barnacle has not one but two penises that can extend as much as 20 times the length of its body. This allows it to reach other barnacles for mating. Often, when one barnacle reaches another with one of its penises, the partner will reciprocate.

* When a male Australian cuttlefish feels the urge to get his groove on with the ladies but is thwarted by a bigger, tougher male, he’s got a trick up his tentacles. He can change color and shape to mimic a female and, in this disguise, slip right by the big guy. Females willingly mate with these diminutive but clever fellows right behind the backs of their burlier brethren.

* In rhinoceroses, females in mating condition produce specially scented dung piles that signal their readiness. Males will search for these females and fight among themselves over access to females … . Adult rhinos are usually solitary, socializing only to mate. Pairs stay together two or three days, mating for a half hour at a time several times a day. Young are born about 16 months later.

* Through a process that scientists call “parthenogenesis” and the rest of us call “virgin birth,” some animals produce young without ever mating. In these species, females clone themselves via embryos produced by simple cell division of the egg rather than by joining sperm and egg. Without sex, there’s no exchange of genetic information, so the resulting offspring are genetically identical to the mother. A female aphid can produce thousands of little clones of herself this way. In some bee species, queens can produce different kinds of offspring depending on whether their eggs are fertilized: Fertilized eggs all hatch as females, while unfertilized hatch as males. A number of lizard species can reproduce without sex, including the New Mexico whiptail and the largest lizard of all, the Komodo dragon. Some unmated sharks have produced young in captivity.

This article is adapted from a blog post by NWF Naturalist Dave Mizejewski.

The genome of the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum), sequenced by the International Aphid Genomics Consortium, is published this week in the online open-access journal PLoS Biology. Scientists from more than 10 nations took part in the sequencing and analysis of the genome, whose publication in PLoS Biology is accompanied by related papers appearing in PLoS Genetics, Genome Biology, and a special issue of Insect Molecular Biology: here.

A new study reports that male pond skaters — the Brian Boitanos of the insect world — bully and frighten their female counterparts into mating with them. TIME takes a look at other odd (and sometimes disturbing) insect mating rituals. Read more: here.

Dutch scientist argues that animals show morality, too: here.