Monogamy, as its name suggests, refers to a relationship that is exclusive to only one mate. The term is derived from the Greek word monos meaning one and gamos referring to a union or marriage. Scientists believe that monogamy is not a natural phenomenon in the animal kingdom but it exists and is, in fact, one of their important mating systems.
Monogamy has a long history in mammals. Although it may be a rarity, there are actually mammals that stick to just one partner in their lifetime. In comparison to birds with more than 90 percent of them being monogamous, only seven percent of mammals observe monogamy in their social relationships. Sexual monogamy, however, is very rare among animals as most engage in the so-called extra pair copulations.
Studies on a selection of monogamous mammals such as primates, carnivores and rodents, it has been found that there are two forms of monogamy – the facultative and obligate. In facultative monogamy, low densities of species exist such that there’s a big difference between the number of males and females. This results in only one member of the opposite sex available for mating.
In obligate monogamy, what happens is one female does not have the capacity to rear a litter without assistance from her mate. Additionally, the monogamous trait is a consequence of her habitat not being capable of allowing more than a single female to breed in a simultaneous manner within the same area. Other trends observed among mammals in this type include the young are delayed in their sexual maturation, the older offspring help in taking care of their young siblings and the father or the adult male helps in rearing the young in terms of carrying, feeding, defending and socializing them.
Did you know that male mammals who play a major role in caring for their young are usually the more monogamous ones? These exceptional males, however, account only for less than 10 percent of the male mammals. With this characteristic, they normally improve the survival chances of their offspring compared to males who copulate with as many females as they want.
Biologists confirm that of the estimated 4,000 species of mammals, very few are monogamous. They include the beavers, some rodents of South America (agoustis, pacas, acouchis, maras), otters, bats, foxes, a few seals, hoofed mammals notably the small African antelopes (dik-diks, duikers and klipspringers) and primates. Of the primates, the gibbons, tamarins and marmosets of the tropical countries are known for being loyal to their partners.
While being monogamous is an admirable trait, it is just not natural among mammals as evident in the few species found by scientists to be engaging in monogamy. Animals normally mate with more than one partner and it is their natural instinct.
How humans, notably the males, behave in their sexual relationships has a lot to do with this biological evolution. Man, by nature as they say, is polygamous. However, compared to animals, men can definitely do something about their sexual instincts in that they have the power to control them.