08/14/2008 12:52 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Animals And Governors Struggle With Monogamy

That question of whether monogamy is natural or not has been kicked around probably since it was decided that monogamy should be natural. Now with Spitzergate and new governor David Paterson's preemptive disclosure of his and his wife's own indiscretions, The New York Times has added fuel to the "not natural" fire by examining what actually happens in nature:

[Cheating has] all been done before, every snickering bit of it, and not just by powerful "risk-taking" alpha men who may or may not be enriched for the hormone testosterone. It's been done by many other creatures, tens of thousands of other species, by male and female representatives of every taxonomic twig on the great tree of life. Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature, and true faithfulness a fond fantasy. Oh, there are plenty of animals in which males and females team up to raise young, as we do, that form "pair bonds" of impressive endurance and apparent mutual affection, spending hours reaffirming their partnership by snuggling together like prairie voles or singing hooty, doo-wop love songs like gibbons, or dancing goofily like blue-footed boobies.

Yet as biologists have discovered through the application of DNA paternity tests to the offspring of these bonded pairs, social monogamy is very rarely accompanied by sexual, or genetic, monogamy. Assay the kids in a given brood, whether of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, and anywhere from 10 to 70 percent will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male.

Keep reading.


Read blogger Matt Titus's advice on how to be faithful.


Read blogger Rachel Kramer Bussel's case for open relationships.

Where do you stand? Is monogamy natural or not? Tell us below in comments.

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