Penguins lonely not gay, say scientists

Fri, 22 Oct 2010

Same-sex penguin ‘pairs’ are not homosexual they are just lonely, a new scientific study says.

According to the findings, some male penguins may form a ‘bond’ with another male due to a lack of females in the colony but over time they do find an opposite-sex mate.

The thought that penguins could be homosexual was popularised by staff at New York’s Central Park Zoo.

Politicised

They treated a pair of male penguins as though they were sexual mates – even giving them an egg to look after which eventually hatched a chick named Tango.

The politicised move inspired a controversial book aimed at primary-aged children, And Tango Makes Three.

The book was withdrawn from use in two primary schools in England following complaints from parents.

Lonely

The New York male-male pair stopped displaying pairing behaviour and one of the males has paired with a female.

Now a scientific study, which looked at pairing behaviour in the wild, says male penguins pair with other males because they may be “lonely”.

Professor Dobson, one of the authors of the study, said: “I found that the rate of homosexually displaying pairs was significantly lower than one would expect by chance”.

Split

Of the displaying pairs, he observed, only two bonded: “Among 75 bonded pairs, we found one male-male pair and one female-female pair that had learned the song of their partner.”

“So these [homosexual] pairs can bond. But, bonded pairs can split up if one finds a more preferred partner,” Professor Dobson explained.

The four ‘homosexually-bonded’ penguins were later observed raising eggs in the breeding colony, suggesting they had left their same-sex partners and formed heterosexual bonds.

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