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The monogamy, by which a woman and a man of reproductive age are related during several reproductive seasons, seems to have developed as a mating strategy according to a recent study. This phenomenon is believed to be due to the need for parental care.
The study, published in the journal Science and carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge, Dieter Lukas and Tim Clutton-Brok, shows that the ancestral system of mammals consists of females living separately from males, defending territories, and that monogamy developed where males were unable to defend multiple females.
Researchers classified 2,500 species of mammals that live in isolation, as in monogamy or in a group. They got that 9% of mammals are monogamous, including certain rodents, primates, and carnivores such as jackals or wolves.
Before it was thought that monogamy was due to parental support for the offspring, for example when the female alone cannot provide enough food or protection. This study shows that parental care comes after monogamy.
According to Lukas, until now there were different perspectives on monogamy of mammals, but this study has tested the hypotheses.
Researchers think that Monogamy arises as a strategy for males when they cannot access more than one female because they are scarce. Monogamy also develops in species that are depend on high-quality power supplies but scattered, like fruit and meat. In contrast, herbivores depend on more abundant resources, so monogamy does not occur.
Clutton-Brok confirms that where females are widely dispersed, the best strategy for males is to stay with a female, defend her, and secure her offspring. This analysis does not include humans, in fact the researchers rule out that these results are applicable.
According to Clutton-Brok it is debatable whether humans can be recognized as monogamous. Since all African primates are polygamous and live in groups, it is likely that the common ancestor of the hominid was also polygamous. Possibly the change to monogamy in humans is due to the change in diet that reduced the density of females. Another possibility is that the slow development of the young requires more parental attention. However, the culture developed by the human species makes it difficult for animal behaviors to be extrapolated to humans.
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