Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Pick Up A Penguin

As I was drifting off last night listening to Five Live I heard a story that made me think I had overdone the cheeseboard.

It was a item about a pair of "gay penguins" Buddy and Pedro (could they have picked gayer names?) that were something of an internet sensation and the talk of Toronto Zoo as they had formed a "pair bonding" and regularly snuggled, groomed and defended their territory exhibiting typical mating behaviour even though one wasn't a lady.

The breaking news was not that they were "gay" but they had been split up by Toronto Zoo turing this into some sort of Brokeback Mountain scenario. Of course the zoo had no homophobic agenda but had split them up in an effort to get them to breed as there are only 60000 of these animals left in the wild.

Of course they aren't really gay as they never were witnessed to have had any sexual interaction (who knows what goes on behind closed burrows right?) but lets not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Sure enough with within 72 hours of being introduced to a female Buddy had forgotten all about his mate Pedro and got down to business. Obviously these Magellan penguins have never heard the phrase "Bros Before Hos".

If living with a man is what classifies as gay these days then technically I was "gay" for about 5 years until my ex-housemate got married (to a woman). I think the word the media has conveniently overlooked in this case is the term "friends". I would like to clarify that no "snuggling" was involved in our relationship although I did let him borrow my hair gel a couple of times.

It also got me thinking whether homosexuality is an exclusively human behaviour. A quick Google and I was quite surprised by the results

Some biologists claim 'gay' animal behaviour has been spotted in 1,500 different species. Which kind of puts a spanner in the works regarding Darwin's theory of evolution and that animals aren't all hardwired to reproduce.

Apparently bisexuality is the norm among male chimps who form long-term partnerships with other males (includes sporadic sex) as it helps them to have strong allies when they challenge the troupe leader. Bonobo monkeys particularly like to get their freak on as males engage in a practice known as "penis-fencing" when they hang from trees and rub their penises together. Female Bonobo's engage in "scissoring" as well which...well you can use your imagination.

It's not just primates that prefer Steve to Eve. Giraffes regularly neck with male counterparts, Bottlenose dolphins engage in oral sex and males rub their erect penises against other males. As females only mate once a year male American Bison turn to their male buddies to release some pent up sexual frustration and more than half of the sexual encounters undertaken by young males are same sex. I imagine it's a lot like prison.

Walruses are typically bisexual and when the women are out of breeding season (you know what that like right lads?) males turn to each other for "comfort". They rub against one another, embrace and even sleep together in the water. It's a nice touch, after all no one likes it when instead of a post-coital cuddle your lover suddenly realises he or she has left the oven on and bolts out of the door (or is that just me?).

So amongst others cheetahs, cats, dogs, elephants, racoons, seagulls, salmon, tortoises, dragonflies, rattlesnakes and fruit flies have all shown signs of homosexuality.

When you think about it really isn't such odd behaviour now is it?

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