Same-sex behaviour among animals is underreported

Same-sex sexual behavior has been observed in more than 1,500 animal species, but a new study has found that it is massively underreported by researchers.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

Same-sex sexual behavior has been observed in more than 1,500 animal species, but a new study has found that it is massively underreported by researchers, CNN reported.

Observations of this same-sex behavior in animals, such as sexual mounting and genital touching, date back to the 1700s and 1800s. But research on the subject only progressed in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In a study published Thursday in the journal PLOS One, according to CNN, a team of researchers at the University of Toronto, Northwestern University and the University of Warsaw found that experts who study animal behavior are underreporting and rarely publishing their observations of same-sex sexual behavior.

The reasons for underreporting are several. While discomfort or socio-political reasons may contribute to the underreporting of same-sex sexual behaviors, the researchers of this study didn’t find this to be the case.

Respondents told them it could be because, among other things, these sexual behaviors were rare or not a research priority for their lab. Most of their observations would be considered “anecdotal” rather than the result of systematic study, perhaps making scientific journals less inclined to publish their findings.

Josh Davis, a science writer for the Natural History Museum in London and author of the book “A Little Gay Natural History” was not surprised by the study’s findings, but says he found it “quite exciting” to have the data to prove these numbers.

“Homosexual behavior, it’s been officially recorded for around 1,500 species of animals, but I think for a long time most people have suspected that this is most likely a huge underestimate,” he told CNN. “Because it’s found in almost every branch of the evolutionary tree… from beetles and butterflies, to lizards and squirrels.”

By identifying this gap in the research, Anderson says she hopes other mammalogists will be encouraged to publish their studies of same-sex sexual behaviors.

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