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24th February 2022

Sapiens aren’t the only homos

Did you know homosexuality can be found elsewhere in nature? In time for LGBTQ+ history month we talk about the ‘coming out’ stories of some of the world’s favourite animals, and how they could change people’s perceptions of LGBTQ+ people.
Sapiens aren’t the only homos
Photo: Pixabay @ veverkolog

Many scientists like Darwin came up with their famous theories on the basis that the main purpose of all animals was to reproduce and pass on their genes. Homosexuality simply does not fit into this. It has been a debate for many years as to whether the emotion of “love” is simply a dreamt-up concept by humans which therefore does not apply to other species. For example, could it be that your darling dog doesn’t actually love you but only gives you physical cues to make you feed them?

However, whilst it is not physically possible to prove that love exists, the evolution of monogyny (only having one sexual partner) cannot be ignored. Prairie voles for example, only have one partner and mate for life. This is also the case for penguins, swans, and gibbons. If animals have evolved to have one partner (which decreases the number of offspring a male could father), who’s to say animals couldn’t evolve to have homosexual relationships?

In fact, there are many animals who have shown either bisexual or homosexual behaviour. Homosexual activity in penguins was observed as early as 1911. Currently, in London Zoo, there are two male penguins named Ronnie and Reggie in a same-sex relationship. They even adopted an abandoned egg and co-parented their chick, named Kyton. If that doesn’t make your heart swell, I don’t know what will!

Dogs have also been shown to be interested in members of the same sex. The Channel 4 documentary My Gay Dog and Other Animals came out (no pun intended) in 2019 and followed the same-sex behaviour of many animals. One of these was greyhound Norman, who was constantly “expressing his excitement” towards male dogs but was not interested in female dogs at all, even if they were on heat (i.e. ovulating). Whilst Norman’s sexuality is accepted, scientists are still puzzled as to why he carries out these behaviours.

These stories, whilst we may find them touching, are extremely important in the scientific community. They are genuine examples of homosexuality being found in nature. This phenomenon could not only change how we view the complexity of animals’ brains, but also play a part in fighting the prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community.

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