When it comes to parenting in humans, anything goes. Since “nuclear family or bust,” family structures have gone a long way. To mention a few scenarios, we now raise children as single parents, adoptive parents, multigenerational families, and same-sex couples. What about the rest of the animal kingdom, though? The answer, like that of humans, is complex and varied; animals nurture their young in a variety of methods. Is same-gender parenting, however, one of them? We know that thousands of species engage in same-sex behavior, mating, and pair bonding, but which, if any, animals of the same sex go on to motherhood together?
In summary, it has been discovered that several animal species may parent in same-sex pairings. In fact, you may be familiar with a couple who made headlines just a few weeks ago. At the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, Elmer and Lima, a couple of male penguins from New York, were the first same-sex penguin parents. The pair are fragile Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) that were given one egg to incubate as part of the zoo’s globally acclaimed Humboldt penguin program. According to NBC, foster parents like Elmer and Lima are entrusted with sitting on, hatching, and nurturing the chicks of breeding partners who may not be up to the task. And it appears that the new penguin parents are succeeding admirably.
Zoo Director Ted Fox told NBC that “Elmer and Lima were exceptional in every element of egg care.” Elmer and Lima aren’t the only ones. Same-sex parenting at zoos and aquariums is extensively established, and based on the number of stories we’ve published on the subject, it’s also quite popular. Male penguins of various species, including gentoos in Australia, Humboldts in England, and African penguins in the Netherlands, have incubated eggs, produced chicks, and/or nurtured them all over the world. A pair of king penguins was even captured chick-napping an abandoned infant in Denmark.
Other animal examples, on the other hand, are less well-known, probably because of this: While same-sex activity is frequent in non-human animals (at least 1,500 species have demonstrated it), biparental care (where both parents jointly give care for their child) is uncommon. Professor Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, told IFLScience, “There aren’t many many species that exhibit that type of parental care.” “It’s only a very tiny tiny proportion of all creatures who do it.” Period. Whether it’s men and women or people of the same gender.” Those that do, however, are frequently birds, as Zuk argues.
“Among vertebrates, it’s most likely to be a bird, since what’s a man to do in a mammal?” To begin with, there aren’t many occurrences of biparental care in animals. Because females are responsible for giving birth and nurturing their kids, whereas males are unable to do so.” “In birds, a male can do everything a female can do except deposit the egg. He can incubate the eggs, feed the chicks, and keep predators away from the nest.”