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 matesâ€”extremely unusual behavior, even among people.
Sometimes, though, young adult owl monkeys that can’t find matesâ€”monkeys that scientists call floatersâ€”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 monkeysâ€”and may even shed light on how human relationships evolved, said Fernandez-Duque, who has received funding for his work from National Geographic’s Committee for Research and Exploration.
“Call it love, call it friendship, call it marriageâ€”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.