Homosexuality in animals

Homosexuality is thought to have been observed in over 1500 species of animals, although not many people are game to talk about it, even those scientists who observe it.

Why are some against homosexuality or not even believe that it exists in the animal kingdom? Perhaps because scientists tend to link everything towards survival of the species. For them (us, cos I’m one too!) it’s all about making babies and living long enough to produce grandchildren. Well homosexuality defies that belief. It doesn’t, on first glance, appear to serve any purpose in the animal world.

There are some scientists who believe it might be a dominance thing, showing that other individual who’s boss. And there are numerous other theories about why homosexuality might exist in the animal world including:

  • Not being able to identify the other sex (really?!)
  • A disease process or mutilation of the genitals
  • A shortage of the opposite sex
  • Lower ranking individuals have to resort to it

None of these theories appears to hold any weight.

Ultimately it could just be for pleasure! But there could still be evolutionary benefits to mating with the same sex… protection for instance. Having two males who are “friends” could help a female protect herself and her young.

Interestingly, these same-sex friendships can often outlast the heterosexual ones. Bottle-nose dolphins, for example, live in groups called pods. Pods may be groups of females and their young or smaller groups of males. The males in their groups often form pair bonds which last a lifetime, and (according to some reports, may include sex. Encounters with females, on the other hand, don’t last more than the copulation time.

Other animals which show homosexual behaviour include Bonobos (where it’s reckoned 100% of them are bisexual!), over 100 species of birds, bison, fish, sea lions, Tasmanian Devils – the list is endless. And yes it does occur in zoos and captive animals too – you just may not have noticed it.

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