Friday, June 15, 2007

Bear naked

Harpers for May 2007 mentions a recent Uni of Queensland finding that lesbianism is rife amongst koalas. Apparently, the females studies will rebuff advances by males and moments later be observed in blissful clumps (anyone know the collective known for koalas?), up to five at a time, doing what comes naturally.

As you'd expect, if you type "lesbian koalas" into the search engine, you get a lot of articles hosted on humour sites, most of which have inverted commas around the word "mating", and reassure us that this behaviour is found predominantly in incarcerated koalas, a la prison sex. I haven't been able to read the original article, but several articles refer to "explanations" for this kind of behaviour:

One theory put forward by the researchers is that the females do it to attract males; another is that it is simply hormonal, or that it is a stress reliever.

Presumably no-one thought "because it feels good". That's aside from the startling theory that sex has something to do with hormones.

I have in my posession a vast tome called "Biological Exuberance", a survey of documented same sex relationships in the animal kingdom. Page after page of gay antelopes, masturbating walruses, oral sex among the apes* and the like. It also mentions the difficulties researchers had in accepting what they saw - reactions ranged from disbelief ("to conceive of these magnificent beasts as queers - Oh God!") to repugnance (hence the title of a published paper in the Entomologists' Journal and Record of Variation, 1987: "A Note on the Apparent Lowering of Moral Standards in the Lepidoptera").

Lepidoptera are butterflies and moths, and the horrified author, one WJ Tennent, had discovered the Atlas mountains of Morocco were the San Francisco bath-houses of the butterfly world.

I am desperately hoping the author was taking the piss, but irony is usually absent from scientific papers. Then again, so is horror.

My strong suspicion is that this is sex for pleasure, and happy animals are healthy animals - this is why there is a genetic tendency towards homosexuality. In human beings, I suspect there may have been an additional effect - more male-male or female-female sex, for example, means closer bonding, which is good for the tribe (which has a lot of your genes in it), and good for you, because someone may be more likely to save you from being trampled by a mammoth if he knows that he's also losing a great piece of Pleistocene ass.

And while I don't believe in "one gene = one behaviour", if there was something touted as a gay gene, and a test became available for it, it would prove heart-rending for those who believe homosexuality is utterly wrong but abortion is wronger. If I had those beliefs, I don't know how I'd raise my child.

Having said that, it'd be a fair sight more heart-rending to be the child of those parents.

Anyway. Back to the thrombolytics. The particular one I am studying at the moment was originally derived from Chinese hamster ovaries.

Thanks for listening,

*title for a never-published novel, the last in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series.


Blogger Benedict 16th said...

given the theme of the post can I suggest...

A Bugger of Koalas

How about a Gough of Koalas?


11:15 PM  

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