The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

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The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by KorrepZ » Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:30 am

Came across this awesome article about the mating behaviour of porcupines observed in the wild!

Original article: Tony Wu - Underwater Photography
There is arguably much that we can learn about ourselves from observing fish.
Over the course of two dives yesterday, I watched a number of male porcupine pufferfish (Diodon holocanthus) pursue females. The males were keen to mate. The females…apparently not so enamoured with the concept.
After looking through the photos I took, I believe I’ve identified a 5-step process in prickly piscine courtship (which may, in some respects, merit further consideration in the context of H. sapiens courtship).


Stage One: Shock and Awe
In my initial encounter, I watched a lone female attract the attention of one, two and then three would-be suitors. The males chased her in circles; left, then right; up, then down; around again; up again; down again…until she was literally puffing to catch her breath (as was I).

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While the chase was on, the males bit the female continuously. In what manner the males thought this would make the female happy…I’m not certain. All I know is that I saw bits of skin come off every once in a while.
The males bit each other too, though clearly the inter-male biting was significantly more vicious. In one instance, one fish took a big chunk out of the gut of another, leaving a hole. Ouch.


Stage Two: Hide and Seek
Eventually, one of the males chased the other two away, and he was left to claim his prize…or so he thought.
The female, being ever so wily, hid in a bin, peeking out at me and imploring me not to give away her location.

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Meanwhile, the ever-enthusiastic male (note his eager-beaver smile) scoured the sand for his missing love interest. You would think the male would’ve looked in the obvious place…but no. It took him a while to catch on…even though I was sitting there looking right at the female.
I had to leave the star-crossed piscine pair at this point, as my no-deco time was up, but after getting back to land for a decent surface interval, I jumped back into the water (at a different site) and picked up another porcupine pufferfish pair engaged in precisely the same “Come here baby”-”Not on your life” discussion.

Stage Three: Delirium
As the sun began to set, matters became more pressing, as the male was overcome by the need to fulfil primordial urges. The amorous look in his eye gave way to something bordering on psychosis, and his smile morphed into an expression more akin to a frustrated frown.

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Stage Four: All-out Chase
Having beaten out rival males and woo-ed the female with all his charm (read: bit her repeatedly until she inflated with irritation) to no avail, the male at some point abandoned all pretence and just flat-out chased the female as fast and hard as he could.

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In response, the female puffed up even more (the theory being…if I may attempt to read the mind of a female porcupine pufferfish…that as a puffy prickly pincushion, she would be less appealing to the male), and swam with all her might.
This particular female made use of me a few times by hiding under my fins, inside my BCD, under my body…all of which worked for a while as the testosterone-fueled male swam in angry little circles looking for his elusive quarry…but eventually, he always found her.
In short…no matter what she tried, the male refused to be denied.

Stage Five: Run For Your Life
In the final stage, the female gave up on playing hard-to-get, and simply swam as fast and hard as she could for deep water, hoping…no doubt…to ditch her persistent companion.
On this occasion, I wasn’t able to follow in the deep dark abyss, but from previous experience, I know that the female probably relented at some stage, and the pair shot up toward the surface at high speed, pausing at a depth of around 10 to 12 metres to release sperm and eggs into the water column.
Once fulfilled, the male would’ve swum away, leaving the female in peace…finally…alone…in the dark…relieved.

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Corvus
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by Corvus » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:03 am

That's very interesting! They look pretty small. I wonder how he told females and males apart?

The only other detailled description of D. holocanthus spawning I know is by Thresher from the 70s.
Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Give a fish a man, and he'll eat for weeks.

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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by skultoons » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:28 pm

I saw this article as well, what fun for the diver! I've been looking for anyone that has known of or had porcupine puffers courting in captivity. The reason I ask is that we have a pair that are exhibiting a new behavior (at least from our perspective) We have a pair of happy chubby porkys - (The first is two years old, the second is about one & they are the only occupants of the tank)
Over the last few days, when the tank lights are off and the room is dim, we've noticed them weaving gentle circles around each other, slowly swimming up face to face and then standing on their tail while the other slides past tummy to tummy never breaking contact until they pass each other. Over and over they approach each other in a gentle slow intricate twisting dance sometimes face to tummy, always making as much contact bodies, fins, faces as they can seem to manage, then they'll break off, swim to opposite sides or behind the rocks or fixtures before starting all over. No jetting, No zooming, no puffing, no biting, and yet taking turns exposing themselves allowing the other's face right up against their tummy, touching cheek to cheek -- when we first noticed we thought all hell was about to break loose but they didn't seem to threaten each other in the slightest. It ended up looking like they were exchanging acts of trust.
We've had them both since they were a couple inches long and we've watched all sorts of behavior between them. Over the year as the little one has grown we've seen them aggressive enough to nip at each other, we've seem them get territorial enough so that we were certain it was time to break them up. But over the last 3 or more months they haven't done anything like that -- rather they've been "sleeping" stacked in the same corner, the larger one has puffed a few times without provocation as if "he" was displaying. And now this gentle slow dance they've been doing -- I've been trying to catch it on film but they wont do it with lights on. (I sympathize)
-- Has anyone been "lucky" enough to end up with a mating pair of porcupine puffers? (as a note & for no particular reason -we've always spoken of the little one as her and the big one as him)

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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by sevenyearnight » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:51 pm

Fantastic article, creatively written and fantastic photos!
Skultoons, what a very cute story! How fortunate you are to be witness to that!
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by sevenyearnight » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:57 pm

I wonder, does she release the eggs out of desperation/exhaustion? Sounds like fears for her life.
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by LilGreenPuffer » Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:25 pm

Corvus wrote:That's very interesting! They look pretty small. I wonder how he told females and males apart?
Probably by behavior, if males always pursue the females like that.

So interesting - thanks for posting!
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by Troender » Thu Sep 01, 2011 1:41 am

This was reallly interesting reading. Thanks for posting! :D
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by sevenyearnight » Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:20 pm

I thought they always smiled, this photo, and the description with it is just disturbing! lol
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by jjj5311 » Thu Sep 01, 2011 2:07 pm

Wow good read and amazing photos

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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by sevenyearnight » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:12 pm

Who knew this was the face of a criminal!
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by Troender » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:25 pm

:ROFL:
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by xrayjeeper83 » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:42 pm

LMAO seven that was awesome
RTR wrote:Fahakas do not have tank mates, they may have swimming food reserves.

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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by sevenyearnight » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:50 pm

Seriously, those angry pursed little lips are forever going to haunt me!
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by Tim » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:18 pm

sevenyearnight wrote:Who knew this was the face of a criminal!
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:lol: nice!
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Re: The Five Stages of Courtship (Porcupine)

Post by bertie 83 » Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:30 pm

Lmao. Very informative on a serious note
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