10 Examples of Gift Exchanges Among Animals

Wedding Gift

Did you know that humans aren’t the only ones who give gifts? When attempting to attract a mate, animals will give gifts too. These gifts range from sweet to down right weird. Here are ten examples of gifts that are exchanged among animals.

10. Food and Water

Animals Food

If you’re a Twitter user, then you’ve seen numerous tweets from females saying that in order for a date to be perfect, it must include food. That seems to hold true in the animal kingdom as well. There are many males who bring food to females all for the sake of mating. Male spiders, for example, will capture prey, wrap it up in silk, and present it to a potential mate. When she accepts the gift and starts eating, the male begins mating with her.

The great gray shrike impales its prey (usually mice) on thorns and presents it to females. The females, in turn, pick the males who bring the meatiest mouse skewer, so to speak. Wild chimpanzees also share meat, but they’re more likely to share with fertile females.

Because beetles have limited access to water, the male spotted beetle will extract water from beans, adding it to his ejaculate before mounting the female and pumping in the stored water along with his sperm packet.

9. Love Nests

Source: Pixabay

Male bowerbirds build love nests, or miniature honeymoon suites, if you will, made out of sticks, pebbles, shells, bones, etc., to attract a mate. Then, they decorate their suite with blue objects. “They will fight, scrap, steal and destroy each other’s structures. They will steal anything blue, and it doesn’t have to be natural. It can be ribbon or plastic, and then the females will go around and inspect them,” Jennifer Verdolin, author of Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships, told The Nature Conservancy. If the female likes the suite, the male has to dance for her. Mating will then take place inside the suite. Afterward, the female will leave to build her own nest.

8. Rocks

Source: Pixabay

Certain species of penguins such as the Gentoo and Adelie penguins attempt to attract potential mates with rocks. They can even be very picky about the rocks they’ll use. That’s likely because the two mates will use the rocks to build their nest–but that’s only if the female likes the rocks and allows the male penguin to mate with her. And, get this: if he happens to wander off and another male penguin shows up with rocks, she’ll mate with him, too.

7. Hugs and Kisses

Couple Hugging Kissing
Source: Pixabay

According to an article published by The Nature Conservancy, a study showed that prairie voles give “hugs” and “kisses” when their partner is stressed. In fact, prairie voles can be quite affectionate–and monogamous, too, Verdolin said in the article. And, if another prairie vole happens to approach the couple, they’ll chase him or her away–that is, if the male partner isn’t drunk. How do we know this? Researchers in Oregon tested the fidelity of prairie voles while under the influence, and they found that when the males are drunk, they’ll wander off.

6. Back Rubs

Back Rub
Source: Pixabay

The male Nephila pilipes, or orb-weaving spider, gives his mate a back rub to lure her into multiple matings. Yes, multiple matings. That’s because he needs to mate with her several times in succession to guarantee that the she’ll have his babies. To make her more likely to mate with him again after the first time, he spreads silk over her back in a massage-like motion known as mate binding.

FUN FACT: As you know, many female spiders will kill and eat the males after sex. According to researchers, mate binding is a technique male spiders use to avoid being cannibalized.

5. Room and Board

Rooms For Rent Sign
Source: Pixabay

Males aren’t the only ones in the animal kingdom who give nuptial gifts. The female semiaquatic Zeus beetle will offer the male Zeus beetle room and board for weeks at a time. He’s allowed to take up residence on her back while feeding on a protein-packed wax she secretes from a depression on her back. She continues to produce the wax as long as the male remains on her back. Once his sperm has been deposited, she’ll produce batches of fertile eggs for up to two weeks.

4. Saliva

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Pereru [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

What would you do if someone gave you saliva as a gift? You’d hate it, right? You’d probably give them something not-so-nice in return. But, for the female scorpionfly, especially one that’s hungry, it’s the perfect gift. According to an article published by The New York Times, the mass of saliva the male scorpionfly secretes in the hopes of luring a hungry female is packed with protein and nutrients. And, if, by chance, the male runs out of spit, he’ll offer females a dead insect instead. “A lot of times they’ll reuse the same insect, again and again. By the end, it’s been sucked dry,” Sara Lewis, an ecology professor at Tufts University, said in an article published by Wired.

3. Poison

Biohazard Sign
Source: Pixabay

The male firefly gives the female a nuptial gift that’s loaded with proteins–more than 200, to be exact–and other chemicals. This package helps to increase the number of eggs the female firefly lays. Included in this nuptial package is lucibufagins, a toxin that protects fireflies from predators.

The male six-spot burnet moth also gives poison as a nuptial gift. During mating, cyanide is transferred to females to be used in their own defense. The female then transfers the cyanide into her eggs.

FYI, when injured, six-spot burnet moths release cyanide as a way of protecting themselves from predators.

2. Sperm

Source: Pixabay

This seems like an obvious mating “gift.” But, it’s not given in the way, or for the reason, one might think. Creatures such as squid, salamanders and fireflies give females spermatophores, a capsule or case containing many spermatozoa. Female fireflies and crickets feed on the spermatophores, which are highly nutritious. Female salamanders sometimes feed on them as well. Scientists, however, aren’t sure as to how the spermatophores are delivered to female squid. Some speculate that they’re contained inside the penis, but no one really knows for sure as squid are difficult to study in their natural habitat.

FUN FACT: Spermatophores made by male fireflies look like pasta–rotini, to be exact!

1. Sea Sponges

Sea Sponge
Source: Pixabay

Male dolphins gift potential mates with marine sponges. And, these sponges are not under any circumstances interchangeable with the other objects dolphins often play with. For the female, it’s either the sponge or nothing at all–and that includes lovin’. No one is exactly sure why dolphins give sponges, but researchers have come up with a few theories. Some researchers believe it could be a test of the dolphin’s valor, strength, and quality as a mate. Or, it could be a way for the male dolphins to reinforce their place within the social order, thereby showing their suitability as a potential mate.

FUN FACT: Dolphins team up with wingmen to attract sexual partners.


Gift-giving in the animal kingdom isn’t just between animals. Sometimes they give gifts to humans as well. For example, crows can recognize faces and know which humans have been good to them. So, in return for their kindness, the crow will bring gifts–candy, bits of stone, or anything they can find–to the human. Have you ever received a gift from an animal? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!