Third of Hawaii Albatross Colony Is 'Lesbian'
Female couples incubate eggs, raise chicks
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted May 3, 2010 3:00 AM CDT
Nesting laysan albatrosses prepare to be moms.   (AP Photo/Lucy Pemoni)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The good news is that mates in a famous Hawaiian albatross colony are faithful for life. The more interesting news is that one third of those couples are female only. "They were supposed to be icons of monogamy. But I wouldn't assume that what you're looking at is a male and a female," said biologist LIndsay Young, who made the surprise "gay" discovery. The laysan albatross, which lives for up to 70 years, typically mates with the same partner each year when it returns to the Kaena Point breeding colony in northwestern Oahu.

The female couples, some of whom have been observed together at the colony 19 years, incubate eggs together and raise chicks. It's not clear where the fathers are. The discovery that such a significant portion of a breeding colony involves same-sex partners is shaking up the scientific community. Various forms of same-sex activity have been noted in more than 450 species, but it's generally regarded as a behavior "glitch" by scientists. "There is still an overall presumption of heterosexuality" that presents an obstacle into understanding the true diversity of animal behavior, biologist Bruce Bagemihi tells the Independent.