And Here’s The Second:

Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus), Bonaventure...

2gethur 4evur.

This is a rough draft, I’ll post the final when it’s up. Because it’s a rough draft, it doesn’t have a conclusion and is unfinished at this point. Also, citations are currently for my own personal reference so that I can easily put them in later. Once again, please no editing unless you think it’s detrimental to my grade on a critical level. This is for my reading and writing class, for some backstory. I chose to write my research paper on the similarities between animal and human monogamy. I struggled a lot with this because the topic is so fascinating that I wanted to write so much more but we’re limited to 10 pages max. Oh well. 

This Unnatural Feeling: A Comparison Between Animal and Human Monogamy

Too often, monogamy has been argued to be “unnatural” among humans and animals alike because of preconceived generalizations about mating systems and the importance of “spreading the seed” to produce as many kin as possible to ensure that the species survives that generation. Humans, it can be argued, are unnatural in the sense that they choose a partner and “mate for life”, which would appear clearly detrimental to the development of the human race, however has not resulted in its downfall. Non-human mammals and other animals are all primal — they do not have the ability to create emotional and long-lasting relationships that extend past initial conception and possibly early childhood. Many of these ideas about monogamy and polygamy can be traced as far back as Darwin’s theories of evolution and speciation. Because “survival of the fittest” means ability to reproduce more than anything else, logic would dictate that the more offspring a breed or race could produce, the better their chances of surviving. Thus, the idea of “spreading the seed” is born, where the concept that males inseminate and then move on becomes the popular solution to animal kingdom success. Females, in turn, are the caretakers who carry the child or protect the egg until term,  and then care for them as they develop. This “mothering” instinct is what keeps the offspring alive: the more offspring that can be made, the better chance more of them will survive to maturity. Thus, it would be damaging to the species for a male to settle down and tend to one female, who may or may not produce enough healthy kin to carry on that animal’s legacy through the evolutionary chains. So according to Darwin’s theories, monogamy is not only unnatural, but potentially dangerous. Males in the animal kingdom are generally outfitted in loud and colorful plumage, fur, or scents to attract the females. The downside to these attributes, however, is that while the male is making himself more noticed by the female, he is also making himself more noticed by the predators that are eager to find something to eat. A male peacock, for example, might inseminate several female peacocks that will successfully raise surviving chicks that will carry on the cycle. However, the male’s long and awkward tail —that was used to attract his mates in the first place — becomes deadly when he is being pursued by a predator, unable to fly or to get away swiftly. The male, quite simply, is built for reproductive purposes and not much else, while the female is built for protection and/or raising of her young. Of course, the human race would consider themselves the polar opposite of animals in regards to relationships and mating. Because there are so many people in the world, and because they have managed to control their environment so effectively, the need to reproduce as a base necessity is lost when considering a “mate” and a lifestyle. Humans, in short, can be monogamous because they don’t have to fight to keep surviving in that sense. People have conquered the natural so well that they can now live off of the unnatural, and look down upon polygamous cultures and animals, because the simple idea of mating with more than one partner is associated with a lack of intelligence and civilization, and the ability to survive with luxuries such as selective mating and monogamous relationships.  While it is true that a small percentage of animals (excluding birds) are in fact monogamous, the similarities between their relationships, behaviors, and choices in mating and childcare are almost disturbingly parallel to those of human couples and families. 

Studying monogamous animal relationships is difficult because of its rarity, and because of limited access to the inner-workings of the animal kingdom, their relationships, hierarchies, etc. The technical definition of monogamy states that it is the “habit of having only one mate (2, pg39), which in mammal implies that this pair holds strong for more than just one breeding season (2, pg39). According to {author of Monogamy in Mammals}, there are several factors that comprise the definition of monogamy, which proves more detailed than the general zoological definition stated earlier. {She/he} suggests that not only does it require “continual close proximity of an adult heterosexual pair both during and outside periods of reproduction (2, pg39)”, but it also needs to include mating preferences, territories that are limited to relatives, and an alpha-couple among “family groups (2, p39). {She/he} also argues that there are two types of monogamy: one in which territories overlap, but family does not see one another, and the second in which the alpha couple and generations of their kin live in one defined area (2, p40). The backbones of monogamy have now been defined: but what makes it Darwinian, and most importantly, beneficial? Many might argue that monogamy isn’t beneficial and goes against Darwin’s theories on evolution and reproduction.  However, many would be wrong. While monogamy is considered an alternative to common mating systems (4, pg198), it is also a necessity for many animals, and the natural way of life. Many of the benefits for monogamy seem relatively obvious, but are in fact essential to a species’ choice to choose a mate for more than one breeding system. Protection from predators from commonly the male, along with an “improved acquisition of food” and a “localization or limitation of some resource” all serve as factors in binding mates for life (2, pg49). In fact, many reasons for monogamy are based off of necessity, and thus are directly and specifically beneficial to the species that practices it. Some of the most predominant factors are ecological in nature, as Wilson states in his conditions for monogamy. He notes that monogamy occurs when two adults are forced to defend a territory with a specifically valuable resource, when two adults are needed to survive and cope with a specific environment, and finally when breeding early serves advantageously to a decisively monogamous pair (2, pg49). Interestingly, while polygamy can be argued to be a male-favored mating system, monogamy might be considered a female-favored mating system. {Author of Evolution of Monogamy} claims that there are preconditions to a successful monogamous mating system, that are dominated by female choice. She first points out that the female “must obtain benefits from the monogamous pair bonding that are not otherwise obtained” such as protection, resources, and non-shareable assistance from the mate in helping raise the offspring. {Author} also states that a female’s ability to tell whether or not a potential mate is available or not is essential, as females who are unable to distinguish might involve themselves in polygamous relationships unknowingly. {Her/his} final point, however, contributes to both genders, as it states that monogamy occurs when there are no advantages to either sex of being polygamous or alone (4, pg199). To bring Darwin’s theories back into the equation, recall that his “survival of the fittest” motto refers mostly for a specie’s ability to successfully breed and cary on their genetic codes into further generations. With this in mind, the reasons and prerequisites for animal monogamy make more sense: parenting is a large part of it, but so is the necessity for the mates to remain alive, healthy, and cooperative throughout the raising of their kin. Monogamy, in essence, creates a sense of protection and consistency as well as certainty in the life of the mating pair and their offspring that is lacking in polygamous animal relationships.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Protection, consistency, certainty. Upon reflection, many might point out that these needs are similar to those of humans when they decide whether to date around or settle down and commit to a family life. These requirements in a relationship are relatively general, however. Researches can easily determine whether or not animals like to be in packs or alone, and humans are even easier to analyze in that regard. Where it gets interesting, however, is when scientists study animal relationships up close, where they get intimate views of how families form and are kept together, and what behaviors are common in animals that prefer to stay with their mate and even sometimes with their offspring. The most common mammals to exemplify monogamy fall into the canid group — specifically the kit fox — which are all considered socially monogamous. This essentially results in pairs spending more than one breeding season together as mates (1, pg1439). Similar to human parenting, kit foxes leave their home at their mature age (for them, 1 years old; for humans, 18). Also similar to humans, children may sometimes remain in their home throughout their adult life (1, pg1440). One of the more fascinating similarities between these small mammals and humans is the idea of a neighborhood, or a community of sorts that is more than just a lot of the same animal in close proximity to one another. In kit fox clans, a specified territory commonly contains more than one den in which family of the pair and members of their social group live. The two pair-mates can even be spotted at the same den on the same day, and have been found sleeping together, sometimes with their pup (1, pg1440). Is all of this a coincidence? Not according to {author of Social Monogamy in Kit Foxes}, who notes that mating pairs have been found to endure several breeding seasons and remain connected throughout the reproductive cycle and also throughout the year when reproduction was irrelevant (1, pg1442-3). Perhaps everything is sounding a little too much like a stretch, still. While animals might not be able to communicate the way people do, emotions are not taken completely out of their equation. In the common marmoset, scientists have observed emotional connections that are imperative to a monogamous relationship (2, pg40). The similarities intensify the deeper scientists delve into the animal kingdom’s inner structures. Babysitting is perhaps one of the more astounding of their finds, as it is almost exactly what it sounds like. When “juveniles and subadults” serve as surrogates for their parents, they are involved in a “parental manipulation of progeny”. Essentially, these subadults tend to the younger litter their parents reproduced when they can’t reproduce their own. The benefits are shockingly similar to those discovered by siblings who have to watch other their younger brother or sister: not only do the older pups gain a prolongation of parental protection, but they also gain experience as mothers or fathers for when it comes time for them to raise their own kin (2, pg41). Not only that, but some of the kit foxes who choose to stay with their parents indefinitely contribute to their younger siblings by perpetuating their survival and thus the survival of the species as a whole (2, pg41). While family life is surprisingly similar to that of humans, mating choices and mating systems are equally as eye-opening. When thinking about adulterous wives, usually one imagines a woman who sleeps around with more than one man while being married and in a committed relationship. Birds, however, would call this social monogamy, which to them can be defined by parental care: the male cares for the female and the chick for as long as needed, but the female searches around for “extrapair” mates to copulate with while she is still caring for her original mate’s chick. This behavior has been noted as a psychological mechanism in the birds to “maximize the variability of their offspring in case the environment changes”, which makes perfect since in Darwinian context, where adaptation and genetic survival are paramount. On the other extreme, scientists have found completely committed or “married till death do us part” couples in the animal kingdom that seem just as strong as any marriage between two people. The California Mouse is one of the few sexually monogamous animals that exist. By being sexually monogamous, they remained committed not only to their kin, but to each other exclusively, until they die. Much like humans, pair bonds are formed prior to conception, and each sex ignores “single” mice of the opposite sex while in  bonded relationship. The reason for their “till death” mentality is simple enough: because their pups are born in the coldest season, both parents are required to help the young stay warm and nourished throughout their period of dependancy. While one mouse searches for food and potentially predators, the other has to curl around the young and keep them warm and alive. If, for example, the husband were to die or be trapped, the mother would more often than not either kill her babies or leave them to freeze. Although this might seem cruel, remember that the babies would be unable to survive even if the mother stayed (3).

This idea of commitment, and especially the idea that animals can determine whether another of their breed is available or not is fascinating all by itself. However, what becomes almost humorous is the territorial nature of female canids and other mammals, which prevents males from straying from their path. Living in a generally paternal world, the power of the maternal touch in the animal kingdom is baffling, but subtlety similar to  that of the human race. Foxes and jackals, for example, prevent their male mate from wandering to another female by excluding other females from the group (3). Many pair bonds are explicitly held together successfully by the female’s aggression and dominance towards other females, as seen in the Asiatic clawless otters (3). Deer and antelope are also in the monogamy game, as the klipspringers can be often found together as a couple or as a family with their doe, where the male has the benefit of vigilance and the family as a whole benefits from their resources (3). When discussing offspring, or children in the case of humans, one must never forget the importance of that couple’s longevity and its influence on their kids. Like in the human world, animal babies are usually more successfully handled and raised by parents who stay together loner, and have experience and familiarity between one another which helps to increase parenting efficiency (Myth of Monogamy). Animals are even known to get divorces when reproduction doesn’t work out, much like humans tend to do when a child is lost or unable to ever be conceived (MoM). Almost shockingly similar is the fact that animals prefer to choose mates that they consider more similar to themselves, which leads to a better chance of monogamy because they have things in common, just like human couples seem to be attracted to. In many situations, both animals feel less desirable than their mate, and this doubt keeps them together out of necessity and lack of possibility for another or even better option. Much like the human attractiveness/approachability table of “1-10”, some animals make mental number lines in their head to figure out which would be the best long-lived mate, which results in less conflict and an increase in fidelity (MoM).


Been a While, Crocodile! :3

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