Gay animals confound Darwin but scientists say they could be key to survival of species

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More than 450 species of animals display gay behaviour, scientists have found.

In a paper, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, they suggested that homosexuality among animals may be vital for the survival of the species.

“The variety and ubiquity of same-sex sexual behaviour in animals is impressive,” wrote the paper’s authors Nathan Bailey and Marlene Zuk. “Many thousands of instances of same-sex courtship, pair bonding and copulation have been observed in a wide range of species, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, molluscs and nematodes.”

“It’s been observed a lot,” Bailey, a post-doctoral researcher at University of California, Riverside continued. “But it took people a long time to put it in an evolutionary context.”

For traditional Darwinism, the notion of animals indulging in behaviour that will not result in procreation may seem confounding. However, Bailey and Zuk have argued that in many cases, gay behaviour in fact supports a species and can improve the chances of survival.

For instance, a third of all bonded Laytan albatrosses live in all-female couples. This helps the colony, which has far more female than male birds, because the females will share the parenting while the males carry out opportunistic mating.

However, homosexual behaviour is sometimes simply a case of mistaken identity. “Male fruit flies may court other males because they are lacking a gene that enables them to discriminate between the sexes,” explained Bailey.

Whether it is because of group bonding, sensual pleasure, mistaken identity or adaptive parenting, Bailey and Zuk’s study has supported the notion that gay behaviour is universal across the animal world.

Earlier this month, we reported that a gay penguin couple living in a German zoo were rearing a chick together.

One of four gay couples in Bremerhaven zoo, Z and Vielpunk were handed the egg by staff after it appeared to be rejected by its actual parents.

In April, a member of Poland’s Law and Justice party criticised a zoo for acquiring an elephant that might be gay.
Poznan Zoo in the west of the country, is home to Ninio.

Councillor Michal Grzes told local media that the animal preferred male company and would probably not procreate, wasting huge amounts of the governments money.

“We didn’t pay 37 million zlotys (£7.6 million) for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there,” he said.