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Scientist explains why starfish will risk being eaten just to have gay sex

Lily Wakefield December 4, 2020
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Starfish gay sex

Many species of starfish will reach out their "mating arm" to the closest lover, regardless of sex. (Myburgh Roux/ Pexels)

A scientist has explained why starfish will risk being eaten to have gay sex, as it makes reproductive sense.

Like many humans during the coronavirus pandemic, it appears that starfish are willing to risk their lives for gay sex.

Same-sex behaviour is seen in more than 1,500 animal species, but the reason that many animals, including several starfish species, engage in same-sex mating is hotly debated by scientists because it appears not to have any evolutionary benefits.

But Paul Vasey, professor of psychology and research chair at University of Lethbridge, Canada, told the Deccan Herald that animals who do not discriminate against sexual partners based on their sex may have an advantage.

Starfish are not very complex creatures, and although they can detect light, scientists do not believe that they send or receive signals that tell them the sex of another starfish. They simply reach out their “mating arm” to the closest lover.

But Vasey said, essentially, the more sex a starfish has, the more likely it is to reproduce, even if mating can make them more vulnerable to predators and more likely to be eaten.

He said: “You can certainly see in a particular ecological context how that tactic – if it moves, mate with it – might be a good one.”

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the starfish are gay. He added: “What is probably going to get lost in translation for most people is that same-sex sexual behaviour doesn’t necessarily equal same-sex sexual orientation.”

Last year, an article published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies suggested that bisexual mating habits were the “original condition” for all animals that have sex, and that gay sexual behaviours in animals are here to stay.

Although there is a debate over the cause of the behaviour, because gay sex not disadvantageous for animal species, it is unlikely to be lost through natural selection.

Co-author of the study Max Lambert said: “So far, most biologists have considered same-sex behaviour as extremely costly and, consequently, something that is aberrant.

“This strong assumption has stopped us as a community from actively studying how often and under what conditions same-sex behaviour is happening.

“Given our casual observations suggest that same-sex behaviour seems to happen pretty commonly across thousands of species, imagine what we would have learned if we had assumed this was something interesting and not just a rampant accident.”

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