Some of nature’s most mesmerising movers break out their routines to find love, while for others it is for their life.

So who are the most dazzling dancers of the natural world?

While birds of paradise get a lot of press for their impressive struts and shakes, other animals might surprise you with their secret skills.

Nature’s Greatest Dancers on BBC One explores the flamboyant, eye-catching and sometimes bizarre world of slick animal movers and tail-shakers.

Here are 10 animals with the most remarkable rhythms.

1. Peacock spider

The tiny male peacock spider has already got the outfit: as his name suggests he is adorned with bright blues, greens and yellows. But he needs more than that to find a mate. He begins by drumming out a beat – sending out a signal that can be sensed by females nearby.

Once he has his audience of one, he kicks off into one of the most elaborate dances of the animal kingdom, first waving his legs and then waggling back and forth, displaying his abdomen to show off its beautiful colours. If the female is suitably impressed, she performs her own abdomen-wiggling dance in return.

2. Greater sage grouse

The greater sage grouse has an unusual performance method. The male of this species, found in North America, is a body popper; jerking back and forth to pop out and display the pair of yellow throat sacs on his chest.

This signature move, combined with fanned tail feathers and his ruff of chest plumage is designed to attract females to his dancing ground, also known as a "lek", for a more private display.

The male sage grouse’s dance is a very high energy one, especially as females can take weeks to watch males performing in a lek, judge and choose a mate. As a result males may lose up to a quarter of their body weight during the breeding season.

But their efforts are worth it, with successful males mating with up to 20 females per day.

See a body-popping greater sage grouse

3. Six-plumed bird of paradise 

Perhaps the best known dancers of the natural world are the flamboyant birds of paradise, which combine intricate moves with bright colours to wow the object of their affections.

The male six-plumed bird of paradise, unspectacular at first appearance, launches an especially impressive routine.

In the forests of Papua New Guinea, he first makes sure his dancefloor is clean, even polishing the viewing perch where a female may sit. Then he scatters colourful berries for decoration, enhancing his chances of success against competing males the females will watch.

For the main event, he raises his feathers into an umbrella-like shape and bobs his head, flashing his iridescent throat feathers, and hopping from side to side.

Watch a male bird of paradise dance

4. Mudskipper

One amazing dancer is found in a less glamorous place – Japan’s tidal mudflats.

Mudskippers are unusual fish that can walk on land and absorb oxygen through their skin.

To stand out against the grey-brown sludge, male mudskippers do something drastic to show off to females. They fan out their fins and leap into the air, reaching heights of up to half a metre.

Landing with a large slap, the dancing fish send vibrations telling interested females of his location. If the pair mate, the female then lays her eggs in the male’s burrow.

Watch mudskippers leap high for love

5. Verreaux's sifaka

There’s no doubt Madagascar’s sifakas have some smooth moves. On the ground they prance gracefully, arms outstretched, in a sideways, balletic step.

But this isn’t to impress a mate.

Sifakas, which spend much of their lives in tree tops, move this way on the forest floor because of their body shape.

The lemurs have a very upright posture, and disproportionately long and turned-out legs for leaping forwards from branch to branch, sometimes long-jumping up to 30ft (9m).

Their short arms and long legs make walking on all fours virtually impossible. Instead they hold their arms out for balance and bound gracefully along the ground.

See a sifaka's balletic bounds

6. Devil ray

One of the most amazing displays in our oceans is the dance of the devil rays.

These fish launch themselves out of water as they congregate in huge groups in the Pacific Ocean, resulting in breath-taking scenes.

It is mainly the rays on the edge of these large congregations that have been observed jumping out of the water.

And it has been suggested this routine – with the animals splashing down hard into the water – could scare shrimp prey into the centre of the circle of devil rays where they are easily picked off.

See a devil ray spectacle

7. Shrew


Shrew mums have a lot on their plate: they bring up litters of up to seven babies at a time.

Getting around – and keeping together – as such a large family is difficult.

So some shrews have developed a tremendous technique when leaving their nest – they form a conga line.

With each youngster biting the top of the tail of the shrew in front mum leads the way, making sure none of her offspring are left behind.

Watch shrews 'do the conga'

8. Spanish dancer

The Spanish dancer gets its name from its appearance and movements, reminiscent of a flamenco performer.

These large sea slugs (reaching 40cm or 15 inches in length) are blood red in colour and ripple the delicate edges of their mantle when they swim, creating the effect of a swishing skirt.

By thrusting its body back and forth it propels itself upwards through the water where it lives in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea.

In this way it can escape from danger, moving upwards. But this graceful mover is slow. So to make a quick getaway it aims to move to a water current which will sweep it away.

Watch a graceful Spanish dancer

9. Humpback whale

Deep in the Pacific Ocean huge humpback whales look for love.

Males start their search by calling for a mate with a distinctive, melancholic song. These powerful melodies are one of the most complex in the animal kingdom and are louder than the engine of a jet plane, reaching females up to 20 miles (32.2km) away.

Then, once humpbacks find a partner from across the vast expanses of ocean, they engage in a slow-moving, graceful waltz.

10. Clark’s grebe


Clark’s grebe pairs, found in the lakes of North America, move together like no animal.

The birds perform perhaps the most beautiful synchronised routine in the natural world.

A series of mirrored sequences culminates in a show-stealing move known as “the rush”.

With feet propelling at an incredible speed, Clark’s grebe pairs run on water, moving at up to 20 steps a second. Holding their wings stiffly to their bodies, they create aerofoils for added lift and stability.

These birds are one of the few vertebrates able to overcome gravity to run on water.

In this way they secure a mate, which they stay with for many years. Although the amazing “rush” dance tends to happen at the start of their relationship, pairs keep the fires burning with less high-octane ritualised dances through the years and offering each other gifts, weeds being a favourite.

UK viewers can see more animal movers and shakers on Nature’s Greatest Dancers, which begins on BBC One, Sunday 28 June at 17:30 BST 

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