Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Homosexuality Abounds in Animal Kingdom

You never hear about this on the nightly news or in science classrooms, but “homosexuality has been observed in more than 1,500 species,” said the project coordinator for a museum exhibit on the subject, “Against Nature?,” that launched in Oslo last year. This according to a report at LiveScience.

This issue seems to be the most taboo of taboo scientific issues, the third rail of science. One scientist who openly studies animal homosexuality told LiveScience, “I've had primatologists offer to give me their data on homosexual behavior because they didn't want to publish it.”

Aside from the obvious social implications (critics condemn homosexual lifestyles as “unnatural,” “a choice”), animal homosexuality does not have immediately clear benefits for furthering a species. And some researchers close to the subject maintain animal homosexuality is simply for pleasure.

But others suggest there are evolutionary benefits to homosexual coupling, advantages that would have furthered this behavior through the ages. One benefit is power. “Copulation could be used for alliance and protection among animals of the same sex,” reads the LiveScience piece. In bisexual species, like Bonobos, homosexuality is simply the way to “join a pack.”

Among
species where homosexual behavior is common are primates like bonobo chimps and Japanese macaques. Also, homosexuality is common among Kob antelope, giraffes, bottlenose dolphins and buffalo where “homosexual mounting between males tends to be more common than heterosexual female-male copulation.”

For black swans, 20 percent of all families are headed by gay couples.

I originally heard this story covered on the usually funny, always disturbing
Bill Handle Show podcast. The article at LiveScience was originally published a year ago. Why this issue is just being described now I have no idea.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.