Posts tagged ‘homosexuality’

August 15th, 2011

Homosexual zebra finches form long-term bond

by tcjmhk

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC Nature

Two bonded male zebra finches (Image: Julie Elie)
The male-male pairs nestled and preened each other just like male-female pairs

Same-sex pairs of monogamous birds are just as attached and faithful to each other as those paired with a member of the opposite sex.

The insight comes from a study of zebra finches – highly vocal, colourful birds that sing to their mates, a performance thought to strengthen the pair’s bond.

Scientists found that same-sex pairs of finches sang to and preened each other just like heterosexual pairs.

The study is reported in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

A displaying pair of king penguins Male king penguins have been seen to “flirt” with other males in the colony

Lead researcher Julie Elie from the University of California Berkeley said that the research showed that “relationships in animals can be more complicated than just a male and a female who meet and reproduce, even in birds”.

Dr Elie and her colleagues are interested in zebra finches’ behaviour. The birds establish life-long relationships and are highly social; males sing to their mates, the birds preen each other and pairs share a nest.

“I’m interested in how animals establish relationships and how [they] use acoustic communication in their social interactions,” Dr Elie told BBC Nature.

“My observations of [them] led me to this surprising result: same-sex individuals would also interact in affiliative manners, like male-female pairs.”

Dr Elie decided to look more closely at the formation of these bonds and the behaviour of finches in same-sex pairs.

First, she and her colleagues, Clementine Vignal and Nicolas Mathevon from the University of Saint-Etienne, raised young finches in same-sex groups. More than half of the birds paired up with another bird of the same sex.

The team then closely monitored the birds for signs that they had bonded fully.

Bonded birds, Dr Elie explained, perch side by side, nestled together. They also greet each other by “nuzzling” beaks.

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Albatrosses (Image: Brandon Cole/NPL)

Female partners copulate with a paired male then rear the young together”

Dr Julie Elie UC Berkeley

In the next stage of their study, the scientists brought novel females to a group of bonded male-male pairs. Out of eight males that were engaged in same-sex pair-bonds, five ignored the females completely and continued to interact with their male partner.

The findings indicate that, even in birds, the drive to find a mate is far more complicated than simply the need to reproduce.

“A pair-bond in socially monogamous species represents a cooperative partnership that may give advantages for survival,” said Dr Elie. “Finding a social partner, whatever its sex, could be a priority.”

There are many other examples of same-sex pairing in the avian world.

In monogamous gulls and albatrosses, it gives females the chance to breed without a male partner.

“Female partners copulate with a paired male then rear the young together,” Dr Elie explained.

In captivity, there have been at least two cases of male penguins forming long-term bonds when there are females available.

Perhaps the most famous of these was two male chinstrap penguins in Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo, named Roy and Silo. They bonded and paid no attention to females in their enclosure for at least a year.

They even built a nest together and incubated and hatched a fertilised egg donated to them by one of the keepers.

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The article referred to, in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, can be read here:
These materials add to a now large body of peer-reviewed knowledge that same-sex pairing, mating, and rearing of young is common in nature. The key point that really caught my attention is this:
Lead researcher Julie Elie from the University of California Berkeley said that the research showed that “relationships in animals can be more complicated than just a male and a female who meet and reproduce, even in birds”.
The traditional mantra in evolutionary biology has always been that what is “adaptive” (survival of the fittest) is what helps individuals live in order to reproduce, i.e., pass their genes along.
Anything else is not “adaptive.”  Hence, the long debate about the naturally occurring phenomenon of the “problem” of homosexuality.  How can it be “adaptive” if it is not reproductive.?
Several older books have attempted answers to this question, perhaps the best being Jim McKnight’s STRAIGHT SCIENCE? HOMOSEXUALITY, EVOLUTION AND ADAPTATION (1997).
But these recent studies are providing remarkable new and refreshing answers.
The upshot: Nothing that occurs in nature can, by definition, be “unnatural.”
March 23rd, 2011

Homosexuality in India

by tcjmhk

WHEN I WAS in school, I once saw two male friends kiss. For the longest time, I believed it to be the most painful moment of my adolescence. In many ways, the experience scarred my interactions with homosexuals through my schooling as well as college days. At a basic level, the “event” confirmed my strong fear and suspicion that the stereotype of homosexuality I had grown up with — one that the Indian society tends to normalise from birth itself — was closer to truth than I had imagined. Homosexuality seemed unnatural — something to be feared.

I began rethinking this much later in my life. Recently, I went to Japan and spent three months in the country. One of my closest friends there was gay, a fact about him that I, at some level, suspected but was never completely sure about. One day, he suggested that we all go to a gay club in Tokyo. To me, being friends with homosexuals was an effort in itself — it made me very uncomfortable. But going to a small dark place filled with hundreds of gay men grinding against each other in a shady neon-lit club under the effect of copious amounts of alcohol and other intoxicants was a nightmare taking shape.

My gay friend had been a constant companion, one who I was quite fond of. So begrudgingly, I agreed. Unlike other nights, when I would dress in my best clothes to woo the women and attract as much attention possible, I dressed in my torn jeans and a T-shirt that could easily have been a good reason to not let me through the door. I wanted to be invisible. To be honest, I imagined hundreds of horny men looking for pretty boys who they could fondle and grab in the dark. I thought they would offer me favours that would end either in the toilet or on their beds. Perhaps, that was a little presumptuous of me.


To cut a long story short, I would never have been able to guess that the club was gay had I not been told beforehand. I got incredibly drunk and had the most fun ever. We danced till the wee hours of the night. All of us ended up sitting on the pavement, drinking beer and giggling like school kids. It was a group of one of the most interesting people I had ever met.

Strangely, the fact that we were all men was perhaps much less apparent than when a group of straight boys get together and have a boys’ night out. In fact, the sense of there being a lack of female company is stronger when it is only a bunch of straight boys where after intoxication there only exists a sexual need but no sense of having had a fun night out. This was different than those gatherings.

To be on the safe side, the fact that I was straight was something I had put on the table at the very beginning of the night itself. But strangely, I didn’t feel uncomfortable and the thought that the men were gay took a backseat. The vibes were gay, to the extent that gay is a kind of happy. Yes, my friend went home with some guy and only returned late next evening, smiling and exhausted. Much to my surprise, I felt happy too — perhaps even more than my friend. Finally, I had wrestled with my personal demons and was able to accept him like I could not have before. I was not the same boy in school who was literally traumatised seeing two of his male friends kiss.

Thinking back, perhaps the “event” was more a result of my friends’ adolescence than of their homosexuality. If I had seen it then, I would have realised how much similar they were to me, and not freaks like I had grown up to believe.


October 11th, 2010

Out in Nature: Homosexual Behavior in the Animal Kingdom

by tcjmhk