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Decoding the mystery of monogamy

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 23:37

Zee Media Bureau

London: Scientists say the threat of infants being killed by rival males led to the evolution of pair living in humans and other primates.

Scientists studying the evolution of monogamy in mammals have come up with three leading theories. The first theory holds that two parents might be better than one for the offspring. The second theory, known as “mate guarding”, says that males need to stay close to their mates to ward off rival males. The third theory postulates that males stick with females to protect their offspring from being killed by other males.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, backs the third theory, however another study differs with the idea.

In the study, Christopher Opie, an anthropologist at University College London, and colleagues compiled published data on mating behaviour, parental care, and infanticide among 230 species of primate.

They used simulated evolution from 75 million years ago to modern day to see how the rise and fall of monogamy correlated with a range of different species.

Opie and his colleagues found out that infanticide by males was the only thing that preceded monogamy for primates.

“Our analyses clearly show that infanticide is the trigger for monogamy in primates,” said Opie.

While Opie’s findings seem trustworthy, the mystery of monogamy remains unsolved for some scientists.

Dr Maren Huck, who studies animal behaviour at the University of Derby, said the findings should be treated with “extreme caution”.

Huck argued that authors of the study made false assumptions about infanticide and that the definition of monogamy that they used produced unusually high rates of monogamy.

“Very few old world monkeys, for example, are monogamous,” Huck said.

First Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 23:37

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