(New York City) Gay rams in Corvallis,
Oregon, lesbian swans in Boston, and gay penguins at several zoos around the
world - they may shock conservative Christian groups fighting gay rights but for
scientists they offer an insight into the origins and development of human
Researchers at Oregon State University have
found that about eight percent of rams are gay. The scientists, at the
university along with those at the Oregon Health & Science
University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Sheep Experiment Station,
say that the finding may prove sexuality in general, and homosexuality in
particular, may be biologically driven.
In rams who prefer to mount other rams, the anterior preoptic area of the hypothalamus
was about half the size of this part of the brain in heterosexual rams, the
researchers say in a new report.
"This was exciting to us because this area of the brain has been found
in many species to regulate sexual behavior," Fred Stormshak, a distinguished
professor of animal science at Oregon State and an investigator on the project,
told The Gazette-Times of Corvallis on the weekend.
The investigation also targeted aromatase activity in the hypothalamus.
Aromatase is an enzyme that converts androgens such as testosterone into
estrogens such as estradiol. In male mammals, estrogen causes masculinization of
the brain during gestation.
The researchers hypothesize that low levels of aromatase in
the brain of the developing fetus "somehow keep it from becoming fully
The news comes as Boston Parks officials
disclosed that Romeo and Juliet, the famed pair of white swans in the Pubic
Garden, are really two females.
The manicured Garden that adjoins the Boston
Common, in the city's downtown, is a tourist favorite and the swans over the
years have become so popular the city added swan boats to lure more tourists to
Last year, the most recent pair of real swans
were purchased as chicks from a breeder.
As they grew the swans settled down together in
domestic bliss. The parks people found eggs in their nest. But, they
After doing some scientific tests they discovered
the eggs had not been fertilized and more tests revealed Romeo was really a
The revelation has stirred a debate in the only
state where gay marriage is legal over whether Romeo should be renamed to
properly reflect her true sex.
The Boston Globe put the question to people in
''If these two swans are happy together, they shouldn't have to have a
guy," said Emma Stokien, a 15-year-old from New York. ''It's good to have
the swans as a symbol of the acceptance in Massachusetts."
Zoos in three countries have gay penguins. There
are three gay couples at the Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany (story).
There are about 20 same-sex pairs at 16 major aquariums and zoos in Japan. (story).
But, two gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York broke up last
Roy and Silo, had been together for several
years. They even put a rock simulating an egg in their nest and sat on it,
keeping it warm in the folds of their abdomens. (story)
After they broke up, Roy for a while spent time with a female penguin but that
that did not last long, and now the Roy and Silo live separately.
Animal sexuality is a
relatively new field. The first book on the subject, Bonobo: The
Forgotten Ape, unleashed a torrent of condemnation for the Christian right.
In 1999, Bruce
Bagemihl published Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural
Diversity. It provided an overview of scholarly studies of same-sex
behavior in animals. Bagemihl said homosexual behavior had been documented in
some 450 species.
The book was cited by the American Psychiatric
Association and other groups in a "friend of the court" brief
submitted to the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, the case in which the court
overturned sodomy laws.