HopefulAg

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I thought the only 'gay' activities in the animal world were for dominance and reproductive competition (IE humping another male so as to injure him and make him less attractive to females).

Didn't the supposedly gay penguin eventually go to a female?
 
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I thought the only 'gay' activities in the animal world were for dominance and reproductive competition (IE humping another male so as to injure him and make him less attractive to females).

Didn't the supposedly gay penguin eventually go to a female?
Interesting article! Thanks for posting.
Some interesting excerpts from the article (I haven't finished reading it):

"Various forms of same-sex sexual activity have been recorded in more than 450 different species of animals by now, from flamingos to bison to beetles to guppies to warthogs. A female koala might force another female against a tree and mount her, while throwing back her head and releasing what one scientist described as "exhalated belchlike sounds." Male Amazon River dolphins have been known to penetrate each other in the blowhole. Within most species, homosexual sex has been documented only sporadically, and there appear to be few cases of individual animals who engage in it exclusively. For more than a century, this kind of observation was usually tacked onto scientific papers as a curiosity, if it was reported at all, and not pursued as a legitimate research subject. Biologists tried to explain away what they'd seen, or dismissed it as theoretically meaningless — an isolated glitch in an otherwise elegant Darwinian universe where every facet of an animal's behavior is geared toward reproducing. One primatologist speculated that the real reason two male orangutans were fellating each other was nutritional."
[...]
"There is still an overall presumption of heterosexuality," the biologist Bruce Bagemihl told me. "Individuals, populations or species are considered to be entirely heterosexual until proven otherwise." While this may sound like a reasonable starting point, Bagemihl calls it a "heterosexist bias" and has shown it to be a significant roadblock to understanding the diversity of what animals actually do."
[...]
"Homosexuality is a tough case, because it appears to violate that central tenet, that all of sexual behavior is about reproduction. The question is, why would anyone invest in sexual behavior that isn't reproductive?" –— much less a behavior that looks to be starkly counterproductive. Moreover, if animals carrying the genes associated with it are less likely to reproduce, how has that behavior managed to stick around?"
[...]
"a single explanation of homosexual behavior in animals may not be possible, because thinking of "homosexual behavior in animals" as a single scientific subject might not make much sense. "Biologists want to build these unified theories to explain everything they see," Vasey told me. So do journalists, he added — all people, really. "But none of this lends itself to a linear story. My take on it is that homosexual behavior is not a uniform phenomenon. Having one unifying body of theory that explains why it's happening in all these different species might be a chimera." The point of heterosexual sex, Vasey said, no matter what kind of animal is doing it, is primarily reproduction. But that shouldn't trick us into thinking that homosexual behavior has some equivalent, organizing purpose — that the two are tidy opposites. "All this homosexual behavior isn't tied together by that sort of primary function," Vasey said. Even what the same-sex animals are doing varies tremendously from species to species. But we're quick to conceive of that great range of activities in the way it most handily tracks to our anthropomorphic point of view: put crassly, all those different animals just seem to be doing gay sex stuff with one another. As the biologist Marlene Zuk explains, we are hard-wired to read all animal behavior as "some version of the way people do things" and animals as "blurred, imperfect copies of humans."


Finally for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure my dog is gay :D
 
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that redhead

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I think "being gay" is much deeper than simple sexual behavior. Sure, animals do exhibit homosexual behavior for many well-studied reasons (cows mounting other cows to alert a nearby bull she's in estrus, for example). I think that being gay means more than just behavior, though. Although I honestly do not know the breadth or depth of animal feelings and connections, I want to say that two females raising chicks together or preening each other doesn't necessarily make them "gay". This may be different in humans because we -probably- have more complex reasoning and understanding of our actions than other animals do. The idea that no other animals can be TRULY homosexual (refusing to mate with the opposite sex in favor of spending time with one of their own sex/treating it as a mate) seems narrow-minded, but I guess all of my biological sciences (animal sciences included) have ingrained in me the driving force of passing on one's genes. By being a TRULY homosexual animal, I would see it as a disadvantage in that you do not reproduce and pass on your genes, and isn't that the point of your existance?

I know this isn't a solid response either way, sorry. Interesting topic though!
 

TheEvilShoe

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The idea that no other animals can be TRULY homosexual (refusing to mate with the opposite sex in favor of spending time with one of their own sex/treating it as a mate) seems narrow-minded, but I guess all of my biological sciences (animal sciences included) have ingrained in me the driving force of passing on one's genes. By being a TRULY homosexual animal, I would see it as a disadvantage in that you do not reproduce and pass on your genes, and isn't that the point of your existance?
This would also mean there would be no biological reason for humans to be gay either though, wouldn't it? There are various theories out there where even within humans, having some homosexual offspring can increase the fitness of the overall gene pool... so if this is a viable reason, I think it could also probably be applied to "gay" animals too.

(I'm too lazy to go and look up all my class notes on the topic from animal behavior last semester, but it could be a fun topic to look up if you are interested :))
 

lyndaelyzoo

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There are various theories out there where even within humans, having some homosexual offspring can increase the fitness of the overall gene pool...
I am interested in learning how having homosexual offspring can increase the fitness of the gene pool. Is it because they would exhibit altruistic behavior and help increase the fitness of those breeding individuals?
 

Quigly

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A few years back I read a piece, I think in the NY Times, about a researcher studying homosexual behavior in sheep. I believe he found that something like 8% of rams will mount another ram instead of a ewe if given the option. He was trying to find a way to prevent the behavior because of the negative effects in had on the rams mating with ewes. Anyway, he took a lot of heat because people were complaining that he was just doing it to try to find a way to "cure" gay people and that his reseach was secretly focused on that.
 

sumstorm

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There is an entire book out showing examples and explaining theories, but it has been out for at least 5 years. I don't remember the title...I have it at home somewhere.

When I was in NZ working at an albatros nesting site (research) there was a pair-bonded set of females. They had nested together on unfertilized eggs for 3 years. That year, they hatched a chick and reared it. Albatroses rely on both parents for care of a chick. And studies had been done that showed high fidelity of male to offspring DNA (ie little/no fertilization by males outside of the pair bond). The researchers were having a hot debate; did one of the females solicit a male? was a it a bonded male? would this have a negative impact on the male whose sperm was used? Did they 'force' the male or was it voluntary? etc. Since then, the same females have raised several healthy chicks. I know someone is researching the genetics, trying to find the male...but since they may interact with males from other co-horts while out to sea, it isn't always possible to figure it out. I haven't seen any info to know if it is the same male or different males.
 

sumstorm

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This would also mean there would be no biological reason for humans to be gay either though, wouldn't it? There are various theories out there where even within humans, having some homosexual offspring can increase the fitness of the overall gene pool... so if this is a viable reason, I think it could also probably be applied to "gay" animals too.
Also, it would mean that in animals where the majority do NOT breed shouldn't exist... because each individual should want to pass on its own gene set, rather than support passing on 1/2 or less of it's gene set. But a look at fitness/survival data over the long term, it starts to make sense.
 
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I thought the only 'gay' activities in the animal world were for dominance and reproductive competition (IE humping another male so as to injure him and make him less attractive to females).

Didn't the supposedly gay penguin eventually go to a female?
I watched a documentary on National Geographic (~5 years ago) on "gay" giraffes, and the giraffes apparently never ended up mating with the females.
 
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I agree with the experimenter in the article - although it's tempting to anthropomorphize animals that have sex with members of their own gender as gay, it probably is oversimplifying things. Animals (humans included) engage in same-sex sexual behavior for a wide variety of reasons, not all of which qualify them for the very emotionally and culturally charged category of "gay."

However, animals absolutely do have same-sex sexual and social relationships that are very interesting to study.

I am interested in learning how having homosexual offspring can increase the fitness of the gene pool. Is it because they would exhibit altruistic behavior and help increase the fitness of those breeding individuals?
Some people have put forward the idea that it has something to do with kin selection, where homosexual offspring work to support their relatives and pass on their genes through them. Remember, the fitness of the "gene pool" at large is largely irrelevant to evolution - what matters is the nonrandom transmission of genes to the next generation. By supporting reproducing relatives, non-reproducing individuals could ensure the transmission of their genes without actually reproducing themselves. This is sort of the "gay uncle" hypothesis.

Another, competing theory is that homosexual offspring are a by-product of a gene that makes mothers more fertile – mom has lots of babies, but somehow, either through hormones in the womb or manifestation of this gene in the offspring, some of the offspring turn out homosexual. The detriment to reproductive fitness in some offspring is offset by the increased number of offspring.

Either, both, or neither of these could be right. Or it could depend on the situation. It's certainly interesting to think about.