I am a Ph.D. wildlife conservation biologist and zoo professional who has worked with hundreds of species of animals over the last three decades. I have come to appreciate that whatever humans might think about their own uniqueness in love, life, and the pursuit of happiness, the animal kingdom has seen it all and more. A few years ago, some friends of mine decided to ask me how some of their personal issues would be viewed by a biologist with a literal bird’s-eye view of an endless variety of animal behavioral and social biology. They liked what they heard. This was followed by a few lectures on the subject and so now, I am opening up the floor to you.
Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society
Dear Dr. Dan Is monogamy “natural?” (Or natural for humans)?
In a word, yes, monogamy or “pair-bonding” abounds in nature and in human cultures all over the globe. But while nature offers a ringing endorsement of monogamy for swans, cranes, blue birds, gibbons, and countless other species, nature also maintains “options” and builds in liberal doses of divorce and adultery for pair-bonders at statistical rates that might sound familiar. With notable exceptions (you know who you are), humans really like monogamy for the neat little interpersonal and societal contract it offers. Whether we are talking pigeons or the Royal Couple, the significant pay-off for unchallenged monogamy seems to be less stress, better defended territories and resources, and better quantity/quality of offspring. Apparently, though, a large portion of the Animal Kingdom still wonders at times and would ask the same question you did.
[Image from http://frontlineprincewilliam.com]