Homosexual behavior in female mountain gorillas: Reflection of dominance, affiliation, reconciliation or arousal?

Cyril C. Grueter, T.S. Stoinski

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    7 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    © 2016 Grueter, Stoinski. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Humans are unique among primates for not only engaging in same-sex sexual acts, but also forming homosexual pair bonds. To shed light on the evolutionary origins of homosexuality, data on the occurrence and contexts of same-sex behavior from nonhuman primates may be of particular significance. Homosexual behavior involving females is poorly researched in most primate taxa, exceptions being Japanese macaques, rhesus macaques, Hanuman langurs and bonobos. We present data on homosexual behavior in female mountain gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes (Rwanda) and test four functional hypotheses, namely reconciliation, affiliation, dominance expression and sexual arousal. Homosexual interactions between females involved both ventro-dorsal and ventro-ventral copulations accompanied by vocalizations and courtship displays. The only sociosexual hypothesis that received partial empirical support is the social status hypothesis, i.e., that mounting reaffirms the dominance hierarchy. There is also some limited evidence that same-sex behavior reflects an overall state of arousal or is triggered via a 'pornographic' effect. An adaptive function of female homosexual behavior is not readily apparent, and we tentatively conclude (until a more rigorous test becomes available) that it may simply be related to sexual gratification or that it is an evolutionary by-product of an adaptation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages13
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume11
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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