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.