Leapin’ Lesbian Lizards!

Today’s weird animal is a local: The New Mexico Whiptail Lizard. I see them often when I go for walks on the sunny side of the Sandias, or around the volcanoes. All in all, they’re actually pretty normal lizards. They enjoy eating insects, and sunning themselves on rocks. Only the females have something rather odd about them. The one pictured below is a female.

How do I know it’s a female? Because they’re all female. All of them. All their lives. Male New Mexico Whiptail Lizards no longer exist. So how do they reproduce? It’s called parthenogenesis, and it’s responsible for all those virgin births you occasionally hear about. It’s not quite cloning; the female’s DNA simply recombines with itself during meiosis, so each daughter is slightly (but only slightly) different from her mother. Oh, and I should point out that while it’s not absolutely necessary that two female whiptails simulate the act of copulation in order to conceive, studies have shown that it sure helps.

The day won’t be long before people can no longer use the argument that homosexuality is “unnatural.” In 2009, a review of zoological studies was made which concluded that there is no animal species in which homosexuality has not been shown to exist.

The “gayest” mammal on Earth is the giraffe: an incredible 9 out of 10 pairings in the wild are between males. A pair of penguins at the Central Park Zoo, and another at the San Francisco Zoo, caused national scandals when it was shown that they were mated male couples. (Of course, those are New York and San Francisco, the two gayest cities in America. How, then, to explain that male nesting pairs occur even in Antarctica, and those males will not take females even when presented with the opportunity?) The list continues: 25% of Australia’s Black Swans. 15% of female Western Gulls. 8% of male sheep. Hyenas, vultures, lions, American Bison… all gay as hell. Male Amazon River Dolphins have been observed sexually penetrating other males’ blowholes. The mallard duck, which has probably been fed bread crumbs from the hand of James Dobson himself, has been shown to form male-female pairs only until the eggs are hatched, at which point the male often goes back to his male lover.

But why? What is the biological imperative for homosexuality, when it generally impedes reproduction? There are a few reasons for homosexual behavior, which is not quite the same thing:

Dominance. Fucking another male in the ass shows him who’s in charge. Seems crude, but in groups that rely on a social hierarchy, such as wolf packs, it’s essential to survival.

Cultural Bonding. Many species use sex as a greeting, or to keep the herd emotionally synched. See “bonobos.”

Sometimes all the chicks are taken. In species where one male dominates all the females, males will often form mated pairs until they are old enough to challenge the harem-master. And many of those pairs last all their lives.

Fun. Whenever someone says, “________ is the only other species that has sex for pleasure,” kindly refer them to dolphins, elephants, monkeys, apes, and a host of other animals that enjoy same-sex orgies. (I will point out that all those sex-for-pleasure species have a markedly higher intelligence rate than most animals. Think there’s something to that?)

Just plain gay. Sometimes, nothing but genetics can account for homosexual behavior. Sorry, Mom & Dad Buffalo!

Whatever the reason, homosexual pairs can be very successful. Same-sex couples across the animal kingdom have been shown to be great parents when given the opportunity to foster young, and many same-sex bonds (like those of the mallard, or the African Elephant) are extremely long-lasting compared to the relatively brief seasonal couplings of males and females. So, if there’s nothing else to take away, it’s that gay marriage isn’t just a right… it’s a law of Nature.

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About quantumbiologist

Christian Drake, AKA The Quantum Biologist, is a naturalist and poet formerly of Albuquerque, NM and currently living deep in the backwoods of the Connecticut Berkshires. He has worked in aquariums and planetariums, national parks and urban forests. When not birding or turning over rocks to find weird bugs, he enjoys rockabilly music, gourmet cooking, playing harmonica and writing dirty haiku. View all posts by quantumbiologist

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