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Homosexual behavior among animals is underreported in science, says study

Same-sex sexual behavior has been observed in more than 1,500 animal species, but a new study finds that it is being greatly underreported by researchers.

Observations of this behavior between animals of the same sex, such as sexual montages and genital touching, date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. However, research on the subject only progressed in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In a study published Thursday in PLOSOne magazinea team of researchers from the University of Toronto (Canada), Northwestern University (in the United States) and the University of Warsaw (Poland) found that experts who study animal behavior are underreporting and rarely publishing their observations about sexual behavior among individuals of the same sex.

The study interviewed 65 experts and found that 77% of them observed sexual behaviors between individuals of the same sex in the species they studied. But only 48% collected data on these behaviors, and even fewer — just 18% — published articles about these findings.

“Many respondents reported that the lack of data recording or publications about the SSSB [comportamento sexual entre indivíduos do mesmo sexo na sigla em inglês] was due to the perception that it was very rare,” Karyn Anderson, a doctoral candidate in evolutionary anthropology at the University of Toronto who led the study, told CNN . “When looked at on a broader scale, we found instead that it was very commonly observed by our research participants.”

The notion that these sexual behaviors are rare in the animal kingdom has been, and continues to be, used in debates about the ethics of human homosexuality, the study noted.

Anderson says his study, like others on same-sex sexual behavior in animals, found that this behavior is, in fact, “widespread and natural in the animal kingdom.”

However, homosexual behavior continues to be discovered among different species. In 2018, the first report of sex between male spider monkeys was recorded. That same year, two male Gentoo penguins made headlines for “adopting” an egg that had been abandoned by a male-female penguin pair.

The field appears to be ripe for future research — of the species identified as engaging in same-sex behaviors in the survey, nearly 39% had no prior reports of these behaviors, according to the authors.

Josh Davis, a science writer at London’s Natural History Museum and author of “A Little Gay Natural History,” wasn’t surprised by the study’s findings, but said he found it “quite exciting” to have the findings. data to prove these numbers.

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

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

Why so underreported?

Although the authors hypothesized that discomfort or sociopolitical reasons may contribute to the underreporting of same-sex sexual behaviors, they did not find this reason among the researchers they interviewed.

Instead, respondents said this could be because these sexual behaviors were rare or not a research priority for their labs. Most of his observations would be considered “anecdotal” rather than the result of a systematic study, perhaps making scientific journals less inclined to publish his findings.

Davis added that there are other obstacles that make it difficult to document same-sex behaviors among animals.

“Historically, there have definitely been fears among researchers that if they published about these behaviors, they might then be associated with these behaviors,” he said, although this has “improved over time.”

Another challenge for researchers is that when they observe sexual activity in species, the sex of the animal is not always clear. “There’s an underlying assumption that when they’re watching this, they’re watching a male and a female,” Davis said.

“The biggest takeaway from this research is that same-sex sexual behavior is widely observed among mammals but not widely reported,” explained Anderson, who added that “this could be true for other behaviors that are perceived as rare but are found more frequently when observed on a broader scale.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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