That caught your attention, didn’t it?

I bought a book off Amazon years ago, not knowing entirely what it was about. It could have been partially attributed to the discovery of buying stuff over the Internet, but the title did beckon at me from my computer screen.

This is the book in question; “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity” by author Bruce Bagemihl. It touches on the topic of animal behaviour that continues to debated by many scientists. And while there is plenty of evidence, it is difficult to extrapolate this evidence because of the human tendency to anthropomorphise such behaviour. Author Bruce Bagemihl himself highlights it in his book in the introductory passages.

So what about animal homosexuality? There is no reproductive benefits for two conspecific males to be engaging in reproductive behaviour with each other, with the exception of Sea Hares (Aplysia species and related genera) that are mostly hermaphrodites. What is the purpose of animal homosexuality?

Most observed cases of animal homosexuality occurs in animal groups with some form of social structure. For example, when male lions (Panthera leo) come of age, they are chased away from the pride they grew up in and begin a nomadic lifestyles until they find their own pride. Male lions have been reported to form pair-bonds with other solitary male lions, displaying affectionate activity with each other like mutual grooming, rubbing of heads and, in some cases, sexual activity between two males occurs. The same thing can be said about female lions as well.

There is no reproductive benefit among homosexual pair-bonds, but eventually, when a nomadic male lion finally becomes a resident in a pride, they have extraordinarily high heterosexual copulations with females, and vice versa.

In 2004, two male chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) at New York’s Central Park Zoo made news when they were observed to have exhibited pair-bonding behaviour with each other already for six years running. Wild birds have also been observed such activity, the most notable being swans. Black swans (Cygnus atratus) and mute swans (Cygnus olor) have know to form homosexual pair-bonds and still exercise nest-building and (in females) egg-laying behaviour (even though the eggs are infertile).

So what is the benefit of homosexuality in animals? It has been noted that homosexual pair-bonds occur most frequently in animals that are rely heavily on social interaction or in unnatural environments (for example, zoos). There may be some benefit for animals that pair-bond. Taking male nomadic lions that pair-bond as an example, nomadic lions that stick together often have a higher chance of survival compared to a nomadic lion roaming by itself. Some birds that pair-bond share duties, such as foraging for food or protecting the nest, behaviour that may normally often identified in normal heterosexual pair-bonds.

Ultimately, animal homosexuality should not be viewed as an abnormality but as an aspect of biodiversity that is just waiting to be uncovered. There are still many questions to be asked and new aspects of the diversity of the animal kingdom (and ultimately, ourselves) still left to be discovered. Until then, all we can do is to marvel at why some animals do the things they do.


  • Bagemihl, Bruce. Biological Exuberance. Stonewall Inn Editions, 2000. Print.
  • Meyer-Bahlburg, Heino F. L. “Sex hormones and male homosexuality in comparative perspective.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 6.4 (1977): 297-325. Web. 8 Apr 2010. <http://www.springerlink.com.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/content/g4757213w9045228/>.
  • “Aplysiomorpha.” 2010. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aplysiomorpha>.
  • “Homosexual behavior in animals.” 2010. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals>.
  • Owen, James. “Homosexual Activity Among Animals Stirs Debate.” National Geographic News 23 July 2004: n. pag. Web. 8 Apr 2010. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0722_040722_gayanimal.html>.
  • “Book Cover Page.” Web. 9 Apr 2010. <http://jacketupload.macmillanusa.com/jackets/high_res/jpgs/9780312253776.jpg>.
  • “Two Giraffes.” Web. 9 Apr 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Two_Giraffes.PNG>.
  • “Black swans.” Web. 9 Apr 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Swans.jpg>.
  • “Two male mallards.” Web. 9 Apr 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Males_Anas_platyrhynchos_2_.jpg>.

RAWR!! Hug Me if You Dare.

Lions are ferocious creatures of the wild. Yet some are bold enough to approach them and befriend them. Just as how Timothy Treadwell is to grisly bears and Steve Irwin is to crocodiles, Kevin Richardson has a special bond and relationship with lions. Kevin Richardson is a zoologist and animal behaviouralist. He uses love, understanding and trust to bond with the lions and win them over to himself.


Known as the Lion Whisperer, Kevin can look into their eyes confidently and even lie down with them. He has not been attacked or mauled by these lions yet, and I think the million dollar question is: how long will he have immunity?

Watch Video: Hugs with Lion

Some Interesting Facts about Lions:

The lion’s scientific name is Panthera leo. Lions belong to the Felidae or cat family. Lions have been known to live nearly 30 years in capitivity and have an average life span of 15 years in the wild. A full grown adult male lion can weigh between 150 and 259kilograms.

Despite all their growling, roaring and ferociousness, lions are actually family animals and social in their own communities. They usually live in groups of 15 or more called prides. Together, they hunt, prey, raise cubs and guard territories. The lionesses usually do most of the hunting and cub rearing in the prides.


Generally, the darker the lion’s mane, the older he is. Scientists believe that male lions’ manes make them look fierce and may help protect their throats in battle with other males. A male lion marks the territory of his pride by spraying a mixture of urine and glandular secretions on tree trunks and bushes.

Lions are carnivores – meat eaters. They hunt animals ranging in size from small hares to large buffalo. A typical meal for an adult male lion is 7kilograms of meat, though lions can consume as much as 27 kilograms at a sitting.


When lions walk, their heels don’t touch the ground. Lions can run at a top speed of 58kilometers an hour, but cannot sustain that for long. Lions remain inactive for up to 20 hours a day. They would usually wait until it is the coolest and darkest times of the day before they start to hunt.

A lion’s loud roar can carry for as far as eight kilometers and is usually heard after sunset.  The roar warns off intruders and helps to gather stray members of the pride.


National Geographic Kids. (1996). Lion – Facts & Photos, National Geographic Kids. Retrieved April 01, 2010, from National Geographic Kids: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/Animals/CreatureFeature/Lion

Roberts, G. (2007, June 26). The king of the jungle doesn’t frighten the lion whisperer| Mail Online. Retrieved April 04, 2010, from Mail Online : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-464353/The-king-jungle-doesnt-frighten-lion-whisperer.html


When you walk into a pet shop, it’s common to see cross breed dogs on sale. But have you heard of cross breed lions and tigers? Yes, Napoleon Dynamite’s( an American film character) favourite animal is real as cross breeding between lions and tigers is possible and the results are Ligers and Tigons. Liger occur when a male lion mates with a tigress. When a male tiger mates with a lioness, the result is a Tigon.

Ligers are known for their enormous size, where some have been reported to be as heavy as the parents combined. A normal Liger can measure up to 10-12 feet in length and weigh up to 1,000 pounds.  The reason that has been suggested for the astonishing huge physique is due to the condition of growth dysplasia. Growth dysplasia occurs when the male lion’s growth-promoting genes are passed to the liger, with no growth-inhibit genes in the mother tiger. In normal mating processes of lions, male lions pass growth-promoting genes to ensure that their offspring are bigger than other cubs to compete, this is the competitive breeding strategy of the male lion. On the other hand, female lions would want to increase the survivability of all their cubs and inhibiting their size would be ideal, hence resulting in growth-inhibiting genes. However, tigers do not have such inhibiting or promoting genes, thus when a lion and a tigress mate, the result is an offspring with growth-promoting genes with no inhibits, explaining the extraordinary size of a Liger. Tigons, a mix between a male tiger and a lioness, hence will be born as dwarfs.

Source: http://www.wildlifetourism.net/ligerphotogallery.html

Ligers also inherit other characteristics of their parents. Ligers can roar like lions and they swim like tigers as compared to the normal lions which are known to be not as well acquainted with water. However, male Ligers are known to be less fertile than their female counterparts due to the cross breeding, and most reports of Liger offspring are of female Ligers successfully reproducing with normal male tigers and lions. An offspring of a Liger and a tiger is called a Ti-Liger and one with a lion is a Li-Liger.

Ligers and Tigons do not occur in the wild, or at least there are no actual records of it happening in the wild. This is most likely due to the fact that lions and tigers do not live in a common natural habitat, hence very rarely crossing paths in the wild.  Currently there are only about a dozen of Ligers and Tigons in the world and they are all bred in captivity and Ligers constitute most of that number as their size entices the interest of breeders.

There have been many activists out there who challenge the actions of cross breeding of lions and tigers, accusing the breeders that their actions are money-oriented and also that Ligers and Tigons create inferior species which are prone to diseases. However, healthy Ligers have been proven to be possible as seen in the celebrity Liger Hercules which was a result of accidental mating in the Institute of Greatly Endangered And Rare Species, Miami, Florida. The contest on the ethical aspect of the breeding of the animals will definitely be never-ending and it is all up to YOU to decide. 🙂


Ligers“, November 2008.
URL: http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/hybliger.htm (accessed on 3 April 2010)

“What’s a liger?”, Carole Park,  The Strand Newspaper, Victoria College, University of Toronto, 17 Mar 2005.
URL: http://media.www.thestrand.ca/media/storage/paper404/news/2005/03/17/Features/Whats.A.Liger-891726.shtml#cp_article_tools (accessed 4 April 2010)

“Lions and Tigers, Ligers and Tigons. For Hybrid Cats, Size Depends on the Parents’ Genes”, Richard Freeland, 8 May 2009.
URL: http://geneticsevolution.suite101.com/article.cfm/lions_and_tigers_and_ligers_oh_my (accessed 30 March 2010)

“ABC Nightline, Featuring Hercules the Liger“, ABC News, 10 March 2010.
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE8Z5Es-M0E&feature=player_embedded (accessed 3 April 2010)