Bisexuality: Doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel

photo by Paul Mannix

We were tickled pink a few weeks back when we read about the so-called gay penguins who were raising an adopted chick. But “bisexual penguins” would probably have been more accurate; most scientists agree that animals that engage in same-sex activity don’t usually shun heterosexual encounters. Rather, they simply have ingrained gay tendencies that are a part of what make their little animal community work. As sociologist Eric Anderson of the University of Bath in England so succinctly puts it, “Animals don’t do sexual identity. They just do sex.”

Anyway, it turns out that all this same-sex coupling may actually be affecting evolution, which would really put a wrench in the whole “homosexuality is unnatural” argument (as if that crappy argument hadn’t already been destroyed by an entire toolbox of wrenches). The first peer-reviewed survey of research on the topic, just published in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, found that homosexual behavior among animals — from courtship to pair-bonding to copulation — is so widespread that it’s altering their social dynamics and maybe even their DNA.

And it’s not just those kinky bonobos, dolphins, penguins, and fruit flies, either. Same-sex pairings have been observed in hundreds of species including worms, frogs and birds. Take the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where almost a third of the Laysan albatrosses have been raised by two females. In fact, scientists are increasingly observing animals that get together with mates of the same sex to share parenting responsibilities or help group bonding. Which shouldn’t surprise any of us, really — it’s only, you know, natural.