The Coral Reef is a Rainbow

Happy Pride and World Oceans Month. I’ve seen a ton of posts with the hashtag #PrideintheOcean, and man, do I feel that is relevant.

I’ve been reading a couple of books this past month on sexual diversity in the animal kingdom, and I have to say, the ocean is where it’s at! Like, literally! A large majority of animal life, as far as Phylums and animal groups are found in the water. Echinoderms (sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sand dollars)? One huge category of animals found only in the ocean. Sponges? Coral? Anemones? All marine species. Of course, FISH are found in the ocean, but there are also reptiles (sea turtles, marine iguanas, and sea snakes) that call the ocean their home, birds that are so tied to the sea we call them marine or sea birds, and even several mammals live 100% of their lives in the water.

This month is Pride month, which celebrates, in my opinion, the beautiful tapestry that is our species. Love is love, and who you are is as natural as the diversity found in the ocean. And the ocean clearly shows us that it may appear blue, or maybe gray, or even green, but it is in fact, a rainbow.

June 1st is also World Reef Day, which, okay, symbolic much? Coral reefs aren’t just a literal spectrum of rainbow colors. Coral reefs show how diverse the oceans really are, and shows how what we think of as “normal” is anything but.

Last year, I created a post and a super fun workout celebrating how diverse the animal kingdom is, but reading Evolution’s Rainbow (Joan Roughgarden) and Sex in the Sea (Marah Hardt) has opened my eyes to just how diverse the animal kingdom is. Many fish demonstrate transgender, swapping genders as is necessary. Clownfish all start life as males, and will fight to be the dominant male within a clownfish community. But once the reigning female dies, the dominant male changes to a female and the next clownfish in line becomes the dominant male. This happens…A LOT in fish and other marine creatures.

What I found interesting in studying the true nature under the sea is how scientists have tried to explain away behavior that is different from how humans reproduce or what we have viewed as “normal” for centuries. The female is “mimicking”, the male appears this way to deceive other males or even the female. I’m sure I’ll discuss it further in my Zoo-notable podcast later in the month, but in Evolution’s Rainbow, Joan Roughgarden, shares how this simplistic explanation does not give credit to animals being able to tell the sexes apart. Sometimes, it’s just more advantageous to be what they call a “feminine male” or a “masculine female”. It’s not deceit, it’s evolution.

This whole “if it’s not a male and female copulating, it’s abnormal” is simply just not true. Not in the whole of the animal kingdom. And yes, it’s true, we are incredibly different from fish, but even other mammals, such as dolphins, walrus, and several land animals, and even great apes (close relatives of humans on the evolutionary family tree) show us that “man and wife” is not the only way to have relationships, family, or love.

The coral reef is a rainbow, both literally and in the sense of Pride. We need to open our hearts and our minds to learning all we can about nature, and see how diversity is really what makes the world go round.

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1 comment

  1. Wow that is fascinating! I wonder if Nemo will be the dominant male in the next movie and decide to change gender. HA!
    I remember the workout we did last year. It went by so fast because of all the amazing facts you were sharing about the sexual diversity in the animal kingdom. Awesome!

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