Lesbian albatrosses to raise their chick
Two females set up 'unusual' family unit after successfully incubating egg
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Wednesday 03 February 2010
When two female royal albatrosses at a New Zealand breeding colony embarked on a lesbian relationship, there were some raised eyebrows. But when the pair successfully incubated a chick, wildlife experts were delighted – and surprised.
The father – one of scores of males at the Taiaroa Head Royal Albatross Centre on the South Island's wind-swept Otago Peninsula – appears to have disappeared. He will play no role in the upbringing of his week-old chick and, just like an increasing number of children, this bird will grow up with two mothers.
"It's quite unusual in the albatross population here at Taiaroa Head to have two females mating together," Lyndon Perriman, the colony's head ranger, told Television New Zealand. "Even more unusual than that is that the egg is actually fertile this season."
While homosexuality is well documented in the animal kingdom, including among seabirds, Taiaroa Head – the only mainland albatross breeding colony in the world – has recorded only two previous instances of females setting up a nest together in the past 70 years. Neither resulted in a happy ending.
The latest pair had tried nesting with a male albatross during two previous breeding seasons, but the threesome did not work out. This time, the two females took turns sitting on the egg.
Sam Inder, the manager of the centre, said: "It's an unusual situation because we've had a triangle with one male and two females for the past couple of years, and obviously that hasn't been terribly conducive to getting on with a breeding programme. This year the male left the trio, but obviously not before he had mated with one of the females."
The male has not been seen since, and Mr Inder told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "My personal view would be having to live with two women might be just a bit demanding."
Initially, rangers at the centre were not sure whether the female pair would stay together, so they tried them out with a dummy egg. When they proved to be good parents, the original egg was returned to the nest. Now the ladies are taking turns to guard the chick and fly out to sea to fetch food.
There are about 140 royal albatrosses on the colony with wingspans of nearly 10 feet. This season 17 chicks have hatched from 17 fertile eggs, a rare 100 per cent success rate.
Following widespread coverage of the newborn albatross with two mothers, including in the gay press, Tourism Dunedin is now canvassing suggestions for a name for the chick.
It is not the only same-sex pairing within the animal world on the Otago Peninsula, just south of Dunedin. Currently, two male yellow-eyed penguins – an endangered species like the royal albatross– are incubating an egg.
Global warming ‘will make our winters colder’
Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The sparrow that survived Mao's purge
A good year for nature in Britain, despite the cold: After frostiest March for 50 years, summer gave rise to an explosion in wildlife
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...