OK, lets be honest. Is anyone surprised that dolphins are gay? They seem so playful and full of life, their sex life has to match up somehow. Fact is, it does.
Most dolphins are highly experienced at sexual play. As youngsters they play in same-sex groups, and as they grow into adolescence they explore their sexuality together, forming social bonds that often last through their lives.My one closer encounter with dolphins was, strangely enough, in the Amazon jungle. It was my first day on the Rio Negro, a warm, inky black river that runs through some of the most isolated parts of the Amazon. Our jungle boat pulled onto a sandy beach and we broke from the heat by slipping into the silky water as freshwater dolphins swam around us. More than we could see them, we could hear the dolphins hunting through the riverside brush, splashing and shaking the bushes in the flooded rain forest. Dolphins are a good sign if you want to go swimming in the Amazon, as it means there are no Piranha around. Dolphins don’t like Piranha, and they have sonar to detect the fish in the waters around them.
(As if swimming in a dark Amazon river isn’t weird enough, the day went all wonky on me when a larger boat full of local family and friends pulled up farther down the same beach for a barbeque. Their music blasted out of huge speakers, and I swam back to our boat to a thumping dance remix of Mama Cass’s California Dreaming. We cannot escape American culture, even deep in the Amazon.)
Heterosexual dolphin sex is achieved by swimming belly to belly, and much homosexual sex is the same, with males penetrating their male partner’s genital slit or anus. Now “genital slit” is an interesting concept, illustrating how little I understand sex in animals, even other mammals. The genitals of both dolphin sexes reside up inside a slit which closes around them to achieve that smoothly streamlined profile. This little design feature also allows sexual partners of either sex to probe the slit with their beak or fins.
In addition to vanilla sex, dolphins can be really frisky. They love to rub each other, swimming stomach to stomach or alongside so they touch, and much of this contact is with other dolphins of the same sex. Believe it or not, dolphin orgies are quite common, ranging in size from 3-4 to dozens of same-sex animals cavorting together. Sexual play among dolphins can go on for hours. Another variation is multiple males, often bonded since youth, pursuing one female, while pleasuring each other along the way.
The Amazon River Dolphin is light blue, or more amazingly, pink. They have a long narrow beak with little rows of teeth, and a bulbous forehead. Even more colorfully, Amazon River Dolphins also practice homosexual penetration of a partner’s blowhole, one dolphin above the other, the world’s only known example of nasal sex! Whoa, right?
Female Spinner Dolphins add one more position that is strikingly visual – a female positions her genital slit or vulva over a lower partner’s dorsal fin, and they swim together in that position. That has to be one wild ride.
We know that dolphins have complex communication systems and intricate social relations. It also appears that dolphin sex is about a lot more than procreation.
(All photos by Preston)