Scientists Publish Findings on the Monogamy Mystery

Finally, scientists have studied some very interesting findings on the monogamy mystery.  Scientists studying the evolution of monogamy have revealed that the protection of lineage plays a key role.

New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that men and woman originally chose a monogamous relationship in an effort to protect their young. According to the published research, men evolved to choose one partner so that offspring were not killed off by rivals.

Head Researcher and anthropologist Christopher Opie told The Guardian that humans have ended up monogamous to some extent, and it is the predominant way humans choose to live.

“What we have now is an evolutionary pathway for the emergence of monogamy,” says the University College London anthropologist.

Opie and his team found this ‘evolutionary pathway’ to monogamy by first studying the three frequently held models for why a species chooses to evolve to monogamy.

The first theory

  • Raising babies is difficult and it is more beneficial to have two parents instead of one.

The second theory

  • Known as ‘mate guarding’, males stay with one mate in order to protect them from adversaries.

The third theory

  • Males stay in the picture to ensure rivals don’t kill their offspring

Aware of these, Opie scrutinized the family histories of 230 animals.  Both primates and humans were included. The purpose for this was to check the rates of infanticide, mating behavior and paternal care.

The next step was to see how monogamy “ebbed and flowed through time” (The New York Post). This was achieved by repeatedly running a simulation that recreated evolution from 75 million years ago until modern day.

 The scientists discovered the only element prior to monogamy among primates that could lead to the evolutionary cause was infanticide by males.

 “You do not get monogamy unless you already have infanticide, and you do not get a switch to paternal care if you don’t already have monogamy,” said Opie.

“Monogamy is only one strategy for dealing with infanticide. But it’s not the only one,” continued Opie. “Chimps mate with all the males in their group to confuse paternity so males won’t attack. But in others, humans included, males stick with females to protect them.”

Opie’s research seems conclusive, however Dr. Maren Huck offers a different perspective. Dr. Huck studies animal behavior at the University of Denver and says the conclusions should be taken lightly.

 Dr. Huck contends the “authors of the study made false assumptions about infanticide and that the definition of monogamy that they used produced unusually high rates of monogamy” (New York Post)

 As an example, Huck said very few old world monkeys are monogamous.

For those who are not scientists and have to rely on scientists, researchers and other authorities for important information, it is imperative to remember to look at the whole spectrum when such research is published, and doctors like Dr. Maren Huck offer opportunity to see all aspects of the circulating story the published research has generated.

For the detailed report on the study, see here: PNAS 

Jessica Rosslee

One Response to "Scientists Publish Findings on the Monogamy Mystery"

  1. Last Curmudgeon   August 1, 2013 at 5:34 am

    evolved is the wrong word. it’s a social decision with practical consequences, but it’s not a hard wired behavior as the term evolved would imply. it’s about territory, not lineage. this partner and these offspring are mine. those are yours. detente. besides, you see it violated on a regular basis. just less often.


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