Homosexuality in the Animal Kingdom

Animals show many of the same preferences, traits, and hardwired instincts that humans do. They know to eat, make a home, and how to raise their family. Scientists have discovered another one of these traits, homosexuality.  Many animals, such as the graylag goose, the bonobo, and even fruit flies, can be homosexual. They may participate in homosexual acts to impress females, to further their social status, for pleasure, and of course because they are attracted to the same sex. How do you think studying homosexual animals could help humans?

The lance-tailed manakins on the Isla de Boca in Panama are experts at attracting females. They use a system very similar to humans when attracting a mate. The male Manakins form pairs, with an Alpha bird and a Beta bird, to help each other out to get a mate. They preform acrobatic maneuvers, gracefully flying through the air and preforming stunts to woo the females. They do a sort of leapfrog dance, flying around and over each other. The beta gets the raw end of the stick, because only the alpha birds mate with the female. Though the beta birds never mate, they get their benefit the next year, when it becomes their turn to be the alpha bird. Humans have a similar relationship when picking up women, though they usually trade off which one will get the girl. What other animals attract mates in this way?

There is major controversy over the reasons behind homosexuality, with each side standing firm. On one side, they believe that homosexuality is a choice, and can’t understand why anyone could make that choice. The other side believes that it is a hard wired instinct in their brain. Scientists may have come closer to finally settling this debate, at least in fruit flies. Dr. David Featherstone and his team of scientists have changed the sexual orientation of fruit flies, successfully, from homosexual back to heterosexual, in a very short timeframe.  They stimulated a synapse in the brain of the fruit flies, increasing its strength. This caused the fruit fly to become attracted to the same sex. The findings of Featherstone and his team will change how scientists view sexual orientation forever. How could this information be used in the debate of gay rights?

Even though homosexuality may be because of overstimulation of the brain, sometimes animals do it for political gain.  The bonobo is in this last category. The female bonobo leaves their family group when they mature. They then find and join a new family where they don’t know anyone and where they have to make new relationships, which is highly stressful.  To relieve this stress, they have sex. They achieve a higher social rank by having sex with other females of the group. When a female of a high social rank invites a female of lower rank to have sex, the female of lower rank with usually make loud sounds and call out. Researchers think this is to advertise to the other females of the group that they were picked and to elevate themselves higher in the group.  If the alpha male is present to watch, they call out especially loudly, to try and attract him. This is because the alpha male is the most important figure in the bonobo social structure. How are bonobo societies similar to human societies?

Animals have many reasons for having sex. They also have many reasons for having homosexual interactions. They may be trying to impress a female, like the manikin. They may be trying to gain social position or relieve stress, which is the case of the bonobo. They may even just have an overloaded synapse in the brain that causes them to be homosexual, as the fruit flies had. Whatever the situation, homosexuality occurs in the animal kingdom just as often as it does in humans, if not more so. That just proves that we have strong ties to our ancestors, and we are, in fact, animals too.

5 thoughts on “Homosexuality in the Animal Kingdom

  1. I found it interesting that the birds flying around each other in a dance fashion is considered homosexuality. That would be the same as boys playing basketball or wrestling to impress girls. That is not homosexuality. In fact it is the opposite because they are attracted to the opposite sex. Also, animals are naturally supposed to be heterosexual in nature, but outside forces mess with the process at times. Studying animals like the fruit fly may provide information to help us understand why homosexuality happens in humans. As for how the information can make a difference on the debate of gay rights is questionable. The fruit flies were manipulated and put out of their natural element which would affect their behavior completely. The animals have a strong instinct when it becomes breeding season to mate. If they are put in a situation where this can’t happen, then they will look for some way to do what their instincts tell them. It is the same for humans so that’s how that information could be used to prove that it is not a natural choice to make and can be prevented if we are given the social contact with the opposite sex that is needed through life.
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  2. I think that this is a really cool article. I think it would be cool to study fruit flies to see why they choose the mate that they do. I also found out that Unlike most humans, however, individual animals generally cannot be classified as gay or straight: an animal that engages in a same-sex flirtation or partnership does not necessarily shun heterosexual encounters. http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=3&sid=63308140-9def-4a34-b36f-4de093c4e156%40sessionmgr113&hid=123&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=keh&AN=32576078

  3. I’ve heard a bit on this topic, but never really looked too deeply into it. Studying the behaviors of homosexual animals, I believe, would help begin the settling of the debate of whether homosexuality is in choice or nature. Furthermore, that information gathered could possibly help in the battle over gay rights, since most people have this idea that homosexuality comes from choice. This science could show that sexual orientation goes much deeper than that. And finally bonobo societies are extremely similar to human societies, because both females of each species use certain actions to build up another female’s social standing while attracting a mate. The line between the animal kingdom and our world is forever being blurred.
    This article is actually a three part series that is highly informative and goes deeper on the topic: http://www.livescience.com/1125-homosexual-animals-closet.html

  4. I think that studying these animals could help humans because of the fact that we are so similar. I think it is odd male lance-tailed manikins try to win over females just like human males do, by trying to impress them. Personally I believe that homosexuality is not a choice and people can’t control what sex they are attracted to. I do think that studying fruit flies to see why they choose one sex over the other could help in understanding the part of a human’s brain that controls those attractions. I think that it is very interesting that these animals try to get other’s attentions while they are having sex just to them that they are superior. I think that these animals are very similar to humans because they want to get noticed. People, especially ones at our age are doing almost anything to get themselves more well-known and more popular, which is very similar to these animals. On this article below I found that research is being done to find the psychological factors behind your sexual preferences.

  5. This is actually interesting. I didn’t think animals cared whether they were straight or homosexual. I think it’s interesting how much animals have in common with humans. I also thought it was interesting how the bird eventually turns into an alpha bird. Here is an article talking more about this topic.


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