How deep is your love? Valentine’s day ocean romance

Cuttlefish © Paul Naylor

February 14th and the age-old dilemma, where’s the perfect place to impress our chosen valentine?

From sunny holiday romances to walks along windswept shorelines and perhaps even a cheeky midnight skinny-dip (though not in February!) - for me it’s the sea, writes Tim Ferrero.

The sea is my passion, and as a marine expert I know that beneath the waves, passions run deeper still. Many of our marine wildlife species are just as keen to find the ideal partner and will go to great lengths to ensure they woo a mate to breed successfully and pass on their genes to the next generation. Sometimes their methods might seem strangely familiar to us, but others are downright peculiar.

Cuttlefish eggs

© Polly Whyte

The protective cuttlefish

The male cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) which swims all around our coast guards his partner while she prepares to lay her eggs. When the couple encounter another pair, both males display bold zebra-striped patterns, and deploy an intensely striped ‘guard’ tentacle to ward off their potential rival; both moves signal that the males are willing to fight for their partners.

Grand designs

Other marine males aren’t quite as macho and have to work just that bit harder. Male black bream build elaborate nests on the sea floor, their grand designs keenly judged for suitability by a visiting female. After she makes her choice of ‘des res’, and after a brief romance, it’s the male who stays behind to guard the nest until all the eggs have hatched.

Life in a sponge

For some, love is forever. For one species of shrimp, domestic bliss means spending their entire adult lives inside the same glass sponge. The adults are too big to escape sponge’s delicate silicon skeleton and spend their time cleaning the house by feeding on whatever drifts in and watching their tiny offspring escaping to find sponges of their own.

Help our seas to thrive

Our seas really are amazing, romantic places, but to thrive, we need to make sure that all our wonderful marine habitats and species are protected from damage, so that love can run free and we have healthy, productive and diverse seas around us to value and enjoy.