Scientists have reported finding further evidence of homosexuality in nature after observing a large groups of male dolphins engaging in “homosexual behaviour” off the coast of Western Australia.
Researchers from Murdoch University in Perth say that a pod of 15 young male Bottlenose dolphins were recorded off the coast of Mandurah “mounting” each other and “having genital contact” following the conclusion of the mating season.
The reasons behind the dolphins’ amorous encounters are not well-understood, but the researchers from the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project say it could be linked to social bonding and the establishment of hierarchy.
“These dolphins, all but three of them juveniles, organised themselves in four subgroups in which they were observed engaging in socio-sexual behaviour that included mounting and genital contact between individuals,” Murdoch University’s Krista Nicholson told the Mandurah Mail.
“The subgroups joined, frequently forming a large group, and then split again in different group compositions.”
It’s not the first time scientists have observed homosexual behaviour in dolphins: A well-studied pod in Western Australia’s Shark Bay previously showed that two male dolphins were more likely to mate for like than two female dolphins of two dolphins of different genders, Ms Nicholson said.
“Apart from homosexual behaviour, males, unlike females, in Shark Bay have also been recorded to perform synchronous displays,” she explained.
Ms Nicholson’s research team said they were “excited” to record the similarities between the dolphins in Mandurah and Shark Bay, hoping that the discovery of similar behaviour in a nearby but separate pod would help scientists better understand why homosexual behaviour in nature occurs.
Petter Bøckman, an expert in homosexuality in animals from the University of Oslo, says that it’s unsurprising that dolphins exhibit homosexual behaviour given their standing as a “intelligent social species.”
“Dolphins, being intensely social are also intensely sexual, both inside and outside of the mating season,” he tells Attitude. “And since they need to socialise with same-sex flock mates too, a capacity for homosexual behaviour is an obvious advantage.”
He continues: “It’s only the last 10 to 15 years we have started to understand how important sex is in the social life of many species, ranging from insects to birds and mammals.
“The more complex the social interactions and the smarter the creatures involved, the more scope for “social sex”, homo- and heterosexual.
“The two top contenders for smart critters with complex social systems are dolphins and humans, so there’s not really any surprises here.”