Posted by: lokahipath | May 11, 2010

Same Sex Relationships in Albatross

Long-Term, Same-Sex Pair Bonds in Laysan Albatross

POSTED: 5/04/2010 EDITOR: David Ward
SUBHEAD: A third of albatross pairs in Hawaii are lesbians and have been coupled for up to 19 years.

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By Rosemary Black on 4 May 2010 in NY Daily News
(http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/pets/2010/05/04)

Birds of a feather aren’t opposed to same-sex relationships.
One-third of the pairs of Laysan albatrosses in a colony in Hawaii actually consist of two female birds, according to The Independent.
Biologist Lindsay Young, who studies the colony and who made the discovery with a colleague, told the British newspaper, “They were supposed to be icons of monogamy: one male and one female. But I wouldn’t assume that what you’re looking at is a male and a female.”
The Laysan albatross, which lives to the age of 60 or 70 and has a very low “divorce rate,” preferring to mate annually with the same bird, is one of many species of animals in which males and females look basically the same.
Many of the female-female pairs at Kaena Point in Oahu and another colony on Kauai had been together for up to 19 years, report the Independent, and some of the pairs had incubated eggs and reared chicks together –- appearing to be “straight couples.”

The albatross is not alone in its same-sex preferences. Same-sex sexual activity in various guises is seen often in situations where there is a shortage of one sex or another — more frequently at zoos than in the wild. Now some psychologists are looking into why and how homosexual behaviors evolved and the evolutionary role they have.
Young wants to learn how the same-sex albatrosses in Hawaii are able to get fertilized eggs. One possible theory is that male albatrosses who make it back to the colony for mating season before their longtime hetero partners could be forcing themselves on the females. Or maybe the females are “soliciting” sex from the males?
She and another biologist, Marlene Zuk, hope to get a 10-year National Science Foundation grant that would let them keep studying female albatross pairs.

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