Monogamy 'Evolved Because of Infanticide'

Cape Times (South Africa), July 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

Monogamy 'Evolved Because of Infanticide'


BYLINE: Steve Connor The Independent

LONDON: Monogamy evolved in response to the threat of babies being killed by rival men, according to a study explaining why a marital system based on one man and one woman became the norm for rearing children in many human societies.

Most modern parents are bringing up children in monogamous relationships. This is not a cultural accident but the result of deep-rooted behavioural traits that evolved over many millions of years, scientists said following an extensive study of our nearest primate relatives.

Research into 230 different species of monkeys and apes found the risk of infanticide by rival males was the driving force that led to monogamy being established in some primates, including humans, experts claimed.

Monogamy is rare in primates. But in those species where it has evolved, it was always preceded by a non-monogamous breeding system where there was a high risk of incoming males killing the infants of rival males in order to take over the females.

In those species where monogamy became established, there was a corresponding decrease in infanticide as males guarded and protected their females and offspring, said Kit Opie, an anthropologist at University College London, who led the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …

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