Birds do it, bees do it…

Homosexuality exists through almost the entire animal kingdom and may even be vital for the survival of the species, according to new research.

Same-sex pairings have previously been observed in more than 1,000 species including dolphins and penguins, but now scientists say they also happen among worms, frogs, birds and many, many others.

The findings fly in the face of conventional views of how animal species thrive and are bound to ruffle the feathers of those who believe homosexuality is unnatural.

Evolutionary biologist Dr Nathan Bailey said: ‘It’s clear same-sex sexual behaviour extends far beyond the well-known examples that dominate both the scientific and popular literature – for example, bonobos, dolphins, penguins and fruit flies.’

Almost a third of Laysan albatrosses on the Hawaiian island of Oahu have been raised by two females.

The ‘lesbian’ pairs have got together to raise broods because there has been a shortage of male albatrosses.

They raise fewer chicks than heterosexual pairs, but their efforts are helping to restore the dwindling population of the birds on the island, the study says.

Other animal species tend to show homosexual pairings in lower proportions of about 10 per cent, the same fraction that has long been controversially claimed for humans.

A pair of male penguins recently hatched an egg at Bremerhaven Zoo in northern Germany after its biological parents rejected it.

Half the time male bottlenose dolphins have sex they are having it with other males, while for male bearded vultures same-sex encounters make up a quarter of all couplings.