The Science Behind Monogamy

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Here's a longstanding mystery: Why are so few mammals monogamous?

For humans and many mammals, having a single, lifelong mate is extremely rare, except for some higher order primates.

What was the evolutionary pathway to monogamy? Two studies published this week suggest an answer.

While we might think of monogamy as all about women demanding loyalty from the roaming, shall we say, Anthony Weiner-like proclivities of men, these studies suggest that men might need monogamy more from an evolutionary context.

One study in the journal Science suggests that a small number of available females among early primates encouraged males to select a single mate and maintain loyalty as a survival mechanism.

Another study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that males are imprinted to be monogamous as a response to the threat of infanticide by staying near their child’s mother after birth.

The latter conclusion came from analyzing the behavior patterns of more than 200 primates.

Kit Opie, evolutionary anthropologist at University College London was the lead author on the study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He joins The Takeaway to discuss his research.