News Stories

Monogamy

Is it natural? - Is this some kind of strange conspiracy? Scientists are studying monogamy because they want to know why couples do (or don't) stay together for a long time. They've found some frogs that might show them the answers.

The first monogamous amphibian, the Peruvian poison frog) has been discovered living in the rainforest of South America. In this species, male and females remain utterly faithful. This is due to just one thing: the tiny pools of water in which they raise tadpoles prevents the frogs from straying.

In BBC News, Matt Walker quotes researcher Jason Brown as saying, "These frogs are truly devoted to their offspring, and to each other." The secret may lie in the fact that Mom doesn't stay around: She leaves after laying her eggs on the leafy rainforest floor. When the tadpoles hatch, the male, acting as the "house husband," carries them on his back, one by one, and places each one in its own pool of water, which has collected high up in the leaves of trees. He looks after them in when they get hungry, he calls to his wife, who comes over and lays a non-fertile egg in each pool, which the tadpoles can eat. Scientists don't think this situation would work nearly as well if the pools of water were larger, since the tadpoles would fight over the food.

Despite the fact that these frogs mate for life, when they are not raising tadpoles each partner occasionally sneaks off and has sex with another frog (in a kind of "open marriage").

Is there anything we humans can learn from this? Maybe that a smaller house is better than a big one and that Dad can function just as well as Mom (except for certain essential things).

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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