At the risk of turning this blog into something that is read only by science nerds who have absolutely no chance of ever getting laid, I’m going to write again about some interesting (at least to me) scientific studies that were recently published trying to explain how monogamy evolved in mammals, even though monogamy is not widely practiced among mammals (only 3% of species) but is ostensibly the goal of humans, or at least that’s what we claim in our Facebook profiles.
I can hear you whining right now, “Oh, no, not more science! Where are the dick jokes?” so just let me say this: Consider yourself lucky to be reading about monogamy and primates because I was this close to writing about sex among the demented in nursing homes.
So why did
marginal minuscule inconsequential some mammals decide to practice monogamy? Two theories are proposed. The first, outlined in the paper, Male Infanticide Leads to Social Monogamy in Primates, published this past week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (how’s that for a magazine title?) argues that monogamy developed in some primates because a male would impregnate a female and then go off to impregnate more females and while he was gone, his progeny would be born and promptly murdered by another male, who then hoped to mate with the single and newly unencumbered female. Eventually, the first male realizes, “Hey, my babies keep getting killed when I wander away. Maybe if I stay here I can fight off these motherfuckers and put a stop to that shit.”
Thus we have monogamy.
The other theory, put forth by researchers at Cambridge in the article The Evolution of Social Monogamy in Mammals and published this month in the journal Science (a less intimidating title I’m much more likely to read, because while I am a science nerd, I do hope to get laid) focuses not on the violent behavior of horny males, but on hostile and solitary behavior of females, who may or may not be horny, but who are definitely hungry, and work to keep other females away from the most desirable feeding locations, usually by chasing and biting and making horrible, scary noises that encourage the other females to go a ways down the road to eat. So this angry, solitary female is out there guarding her good food and the horny male wanders into her territory to mate and thinks, “Hey, the food is pretty good here, and the other female I’d like to screw is way, way over there down the road, so maybe I should just stay here and eat the good food and wait around for this female here to screw again rather than expend the effort to screw that other female, where the food may not be as good.”
And thus we have monogamy.
These two competing theories were rattling around my brain the other day as I’m standing in my kitchen cooking dinner. At the exact same moment, my husband is sitting at the dining room table, scrolling through his iPhone. A generation ago, he would have been sitting there, a knife clutched in one hand, a fork in the other, and a napkin tucked in his collar. A millenium ago, he would have wandered into my territory and thought, “Hey, the food is pretty good here.”
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