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How Prehistoric Geeks Invented Monogamy

Unlike our closest cousins the chimpanzees, we don't live in groups in which the males share (and fight over) females--instead, we tend to pair up. How did this happen?

A new study shows that weak males who were inferior fighters chanced upon a winning solution: Pick one female out of the group and treat her especially well, so she'll stay with you. It was the beginning of monogamy.

In the May 28th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Rosie Mestel quotes biomathematician Sergey Gavrilets as saying that this mating strategy may "have triggered a key step in the very long process of the evolution of the family. Without it, we wouldn't have the modern family."

The chimp ideal (and probably the early human ideal as well) is to mate with as many females and have as many offspring with them as possible, so as to make sure your genes dominate in the next generation. But weaker males discovered that carefully nurturing a smaller group of offspring worked just as well, because the children survived. Thus the caring father was born, as well.

We humans lived through the free-love revolution of the 1960s and are living in the same sex marriage era of the 21st century, but Mestel quotes Gavrilets as saying, "People don't realize that the most important sexual revolution for our species happened much, much earlier--probably several million years earlier."

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