10 Species That Don’t Adhere to a Gender Binary in the Animal World Unlike the Human World
In a human world afflicted with archetypical perceptions of who and what a person should be, the non-binary are an endangered community. Their crime: an inability to conform to a predetermined gender bias. And in retribution, obturation from societal inclusion and even participation in the human experience.
Although the turn of the century has given proffered greater awareness of gender bending, a lot more is desired. That is why, in recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we bring to light animals that are both genders and more. Our aim is to gently nudge the world into breaking its tunnel vision attitude towards gender.
10 Non-binary Species in the Animal World You Must Know
The Bearded Dragon
Equipped with dragon-like spikes and scales, the aptly named bearded dragon starts bending its animal gender identity while still an egg. This interesting creature is capable of morphing from male to female as an embryo. Upon maturity, these genetically male creatures can also take on the traits of both genders. They are more fertile than their originally female counterparts, producing more eggs.
Laboratory tests show that this naturally occurring gender-bending phenomenon can be triggered by climate change. Male bearded dragons transform into females when exposed to extreme temperatures. While this activity sheds light on the possible animal responses to climate change it also clarifies that gender alteration is not as otherworldly as many perceive.
Olive Collubus Monkey
Many often ask “are there any mammals that can change gender?” Indeed, mammals like most other animal types can alter their animal gender identity. Factors that trigger these include an increase in testosterone levels and evolutionary mutation to adapt to changing times and circumstances. A case in point is the red and olive Collubus monkey.
When the male Collubus Monkey comes of age it is kicked out of the pod. It then must find other single males with whom they will form a coalition. To hold off that rude departure, the red and olive Collubus monkeys have a rare evolutionary trait. During puberty, the area around the anus of these species swells as would a female Collubus in heat. This act prevents them from being shooed away from their pod. Although the swelling stops once the olive Collubus monkey becomes an adult, it stays on the red Collubus monkey.
All Clown Fish are born males. At some point in their lives, this fish must decide on whether it wishes to stay that way or become a female. Usually, this transformation is carried out by the most dominant males. The process is called sequential hermaphroditism. When the female clownfish dies, the most dominant male—previously the second in command in the school changes its gender into a female. Female clownfish play a crucial role in the breeding process
One of the few animals that are both genders is the Spotted Hyena. Both male and female hyenas have a teste and a penis. However, the distinction is the functionality of both organs. The male spotted hyena’s penis goes erect when aroused. However, the female hyena’s penis or pseudo-penis, as it is known in biology, is an elongated clitoris.
Unlike the male version, the female penis becomes erect to assert dominance. Female hyenas give birth, urinate, signal and mate through this appendage. During intercourse they roll up pseudo-penis granting the male access to the vagina.
While the clownfish that is led by a female, the Wrasse does the reverse. Every school of Wrasses is led by a male, the remaining members of the school are all female. When the dominant male dies or leaves for a prolonged period, the most dominant female transforms into a male and takes charge of the school. This change involves growing male reproductive organs and increasing aggression in a bid to secure territory and breeding rights. Wrasses and Clownfish offer definitive proof of the fluidity of gender.
Are all animals male and female? Banana slugs, a large slug species capable of growing up to eight inches in length have the answer. Beyond its vibrant yellow color, the banana slug is born with both the male and female genitalia. An even weirder fact about these natural-born hermaphrodites is that they impregnate each other at the same time. Banana slugs simply seek out mates of the same size, form a yin-yang circle with their bodies, and insert their male organs into the female organs of each other. These organisms are also capable of impregnating themselves, even though they rarely do so. Banana Slugs also practice apophallation which involves biting off the penis during intercourse.
Cuttlefish are aquatic animals that are both genders whenever the need arises. Most times, it is during mating. In an attempt at bypassing other males to get the female, some male cuttlefish have an ingenious gender bending technique. They change a part of their body to look feminine, dissuading confrontation with other males and allowing them to approach the female cuttlefish. This sneaky display prevents the other males from knowing what is in front of them until mating.
Most parrotfish are born females. However, they have genitalia belonging to both genders. Known as protogynous hermaphrodites, they can be males at any point in their lives. While experts are unsure of the rationale behind this, they agree on the gender balancing effect of this gender bending capability.
Next on this animals that can change gender list is the Blackfin Goby. Also known as the Blackfin Dartfish, these torpedo-like Gobiiformes, can change their sex almost at will. Females can transform their sex to male and vice versa. This usually occurs upon the death of the resident male. The transformation process alters their genitalia and behavioral patterns. For example, females that change their sex tend to be less submissive and imbibe the jerky movements of their male counterparts.
Besides being non-gender there are animals with more than two genders. The Clam Shrimp is the perfect example. This species of crustacean has both male, female, and two sets of hermaphrodite organs.
When discussing the issues surrounding animal gender LGBT are largely seen as divergent. The less acknowledged truth is that the animal kingdom is proof that being gay is natural and gender is fluid. The international day against homophobia and transphobia is an opportunity to spread awareness and help combat bias and discrimination.