Owl Monkeys Shed Light on Evolution of Love

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It may not seem like monkey business, but emotional bonds in animals such as primates may have evolved into love as we know it.
Take owl monkeys, tiny tropical tree-dwellers that treat every day like it’s Valentine’s Day. A male and a female stick together as long as possible, never cheat, and never “divorce” their mates—extremely unusual behavior, even among people.

Sometimes, though, young adult owl monkeys that can’t find mates—monkeys that scientists call floaters—pick vicious fights with established pairs, eventually kicking one of them out.

Now, new research shows that the monkeys forced to take on new partners have fewer babies than owl monkeys that haven’t been broken up, said Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, a biological anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia who led a new study on owl monkey relationships.

The results show how monogamy helps owl monkeys—and may even shed light on how human relationships evolved.

“Call it love, call it friendship, call it marriage—there is something in our biology that leads to this enduring, emotional bond between two individuals that is widespread among human societies,” Fernandez-Duque said in a statement.

Trouble in Paradise

Only about 5 percent of mammals are monogamous, and the phenomenon most often arises when both parents are needed to raise offspring, as in the case of people.

With owl monkeys, fathers take on most of the childcare after a baby is born, relying on the mother only for milk.

But floaters—which Fernandez-Duque and colleagues first noticed in 2003 inArgentina‘s Chaco region (map)—can spell trouble in paradise.

Drawing on nearly two decades of observations of 18 owl monkey groups, the team discovered that pairs that stay intact produce 25 percent more babies than monkeys in severed pairs.

The exiled animal from those broken relationships, meanwhile, is usually injured and often dies.

Written By: Christine Dell’Amore
continue to source article at news.nationalgeographic.com

10 COMMENTS

  1. A fascinating study and suggests that what the religious refer to laughably as ‘doG is love,’ is simply learned behaviour, as we all knew anyway.Pairing is obviously an evolutionary development to aid safer and more successful breeding habits.

  2. I smell some personal agenda here. Another attempt to justify marriage using (bad) science. I can guarantee that if you check the DNA of the offspring, you’ll see that the parents are not faithful.

  3. In reply to #2 by ganggan:

    I can guarantee that if you check the DNA of the offspring, you’ll see that the parents are not faithful.

    Hey! Are you calling my 2,436,748,847th cousin (4,528,331 times removed) a slut? Watch what you say about my kin, Buster.

  4. Even for an evolutionary study, this seems to be extrapolating quite a lot from rather little. Given what we know of evolution, it makes both intuitive and logical sense, but I’m defintely reserving my own conclusions until I’m aware of more studies like this. And also because these kinds of stories are fun and interesting!

    In reply to #2 by ganggan:

    I can guarantee that if you check the DNA of the offspring, you’ll see that the parents are not faithful.

    That’d be interesting, yes.

  5. Only about 5 percent of mammals are monogamous, and the phenomenon most often arises when both parents are needed to raise offspring, as in the case of people.

    Quite a lot of birds pair up – some for life.

    Seabirds are long-lived, socially monogamous, birds that usually mate for life. This makes selecting a mate extremely important with lifelong implications for the reproductive success of both individuals in the pair. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seabird_breeding_behavior

  6. I love articles like this, from which it’s possible to incrementally increase knowledge. They’re so refreshing in comparison to the ones about religion, from which nothing positive can be gleaned.

  7. What about the role of oxytocin? And, I wish they’d stop calling humans monogamous. We’re not. Some individuals manage to pull it off but they’re the exception that proves the rule.

    I also can’t understand why they seem to see this pair bonding as the only way to have more offspring. I guarantee if free sex and love were enjoyed by all with no fighting because of left out individuals, overall there’d be more owl monkeys.

    Like someone already said, me smells an agenda here!

  8. In reply to #7 by MAJORPAIN:

    What about the role of oxytocin? And, I wish they’d stop calling humans monogamous. We’re not. Some individuals manage to pull it off but they’re the exception that proves the rule.I also can’t understand why they seem to see this pair bonding as the only way to have more offspring. I guarantee if free sex and love were enjoyed by all with no fighting because of left out individuals, overall there’d be more owl monkeys.Like someone already said, me smells an agenda here!

    I agree, except for the bit about the exception that proves the rule. The exception never proves the rule. But it sound catchy. Still, humans being monogamous? not in this world. It seems that the more monogamous creatures are the more violent they are. Just compare chimps with bonobos.

  9. In reply to #7 by MAJORPAIN:

    What about the role of oxytocin?

    I also can’t understand why they seem to see this pair bonding as the only way to have more offspring.

    The original article touches on the role of oxytocin and dopamine.

    The reduction in offspring seems to be partly because when starting “a new relationship, there’s a delay in mating—usually about a year” but this wouldn’t, I assume, account for a 25% reduction. They generally have just one offspring a year so it would be interesting to know if there is an increase in the numder of years when they don’t have any, or whether their fertile/living years are reduced.

  10. In reply to #11 by Smill:

    Aw, they are so cute peeping out from their little tree house!

    I thought they looked cute too until I came across these images of owl monkey skulls:

    rdf richard

    rdf richard

    rdf richard

    rdf richard

    See, they aren’t quite so adorable once they’ve been decapitated and their hair, skin and flesh removed.

    That is way too much eye socket for any animal. Particularly one so closely related to me.

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