Social Monogamy in Primates

At first, it seemed like there were many reasons for monogamous relationships varying from high infanticide, parental care, mating guarding, etc. Throughout the reading and the articles provided, it has been determined or thought that parental care is more of a consequence rather than a cause, male infanticide is very unlikely to be main reason for the evolution of social monogamy, and mating guarding have all been ruled out. Lukas and Clutton-Brock have concluded that social monogamy evolved due to intense feeding competition between females, females that were breeding were intolerant of each other, and the population density was low. They supported their hypothesis by comparing male infanticide, parental care, and mate guarding with mammals that were either in group living, social monogamy, and solitary females. These factors put together caused in the evolution of social monogamy in mammals as stated in “The Evolution of Social Monogamy in Mammals”.  Unlike Lukas and Clutton-Brock, the authors of “Male infanticide leads to social monogamy in primates” have come to the conclusion that male infanticide is the leading cause of social monogamy among primates. The evidence they used to support their claim was: “there is little support for a transition from polygyny to monogamy with low infanticide; social monogamy is inferred to have been far more likely  to evolve from polygyny in the presence of high infanticide” and the fact that male infanticide rate goes down as social monogamy evolves as well as that the probability of transitioning back to polygeny is very small. In the end, there isn’t one factor that causes social monogamy but rather a combination of factors that are still being questioned.

I believe that “Male infanticide leads to social monogamy in primates” provides the more convincing scientific argument mainly because of the methods and the data the authors used to prove their argument. This article provided the readers with both visuals and explanations of how they got the data they did. This allowed us to see exactly how they came to their conclusions which made their argument more valid.The authors’ flaw was not providing the actual data into the text while they were making their argument. Lukas and Clutton-Brock on the other hand merely mentioned numbers and figures while not mentioning at all how they got the data. They did, however, effectively apply the data and had it immediately available which is something that the other article lacked. Seeing the numbers and percentages gives the reader immediate data to compare.  For example, “Increases in the reproductive rate of females probably have benefits to males, who sire offspring in more breeding cycles in socially monogamous species with paternal care (median=6 breeding seasons, range from 4.5 to 8 breeding seasons, n=11)than in socially monogamous species where males do not provide care (median=3 breeding seasons, range from 2 to 8 breeding seasons, n=8 species),” (Lukas, 2013).

These two articles did change my understanding of monogamous relationships in mammals. I never thought that there were so many factors to take inconsideration in terms of finding the cause of it all. I’m accustomed to seeing monogamous mammals in my everyday life that I never really questioned why certain species were monogamous while others were not. Aside from class discussions, I never really went into depth in terms of looking at the endless possibilities for the causes. The most surprising thing that I found out was the fact that all social monogamous mammals, with a few exceptions, came from an ancestor in which the females were solitary.


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