Monkeys & Monogamy: Study Unearths Origins Of Relationships

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Nice guys finish last? Not in this study on the origins of monogamy.

You may find it archaic that modern dating usually still involves the stereotypical dinner where the man pays, and you'd be exactly right. Despite waves of feminism that seem to have taken hold, some women prefer a chivalrous man who picks up the tab, pulls out their chair and generally acts as a provider. It is, in a roundabout way, how we arrived at the concept of monogamy, according to scientists.

A new study finds that the evolution of monogamous couples is based on two important aspects: "Weak males with inferior fighting chops and the females who opted to be faithful to them." As Sergey Garvilets, the study's author, points out, it's thanks to this behavior (in monkeys, naturally) that we have the modern family as we know it.

 

The scientists tested this theory on chimps. While the "higher-ranking," more promiscuous male chimps were able to take what they wanted and move along to keep spreading their seed, it was the lower-ranking, in other words, "weaker" males, who, through the offering of food and other child-rearing necessities to females, were able to secure a relationship that would ultimately be monogamous.

Biological anthropologist Owen Lovejoy, who edited Garvilets' paper, agreed that this is probably the case, based on his own prior research. In his own paper, written in 2009, he speculated that monogamy was a 4.4-million-year-old "member of the human family, Ardipithecus ramidus, based on features that males were lacking." For example, a lack of "large, slicing canine teeth would signify a lot of male competition as well as an upright skeleton that would leave arms free to carry food." Someone had to bring home the bacon, and apparently it was the weaker dudes.

While this study does have its merits, other researchers have their own idea on how monogamy came to be. The patterns seen in the chimps showed a simplified version of human sexual behavior. Mating habits of males and females vary and are much too difficult to pinpoint.

The takeaway? We may have an explanation for why alpha males tend to be more promiscuous and less relationship-oriented, while "nice guys" are more likely to get into relationships. Oh, and also, we're all basically monkeys — but we already knew that.

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