03/20/2014 06:33 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2014

Thanks To Owl Monkeys, We Now Know That Lifelong Monogamy Is Possible

There has been a longstanding debate about whether or not humans were meant to be monogamous, considering monogamy is so rarely seen in the animal kingdom. But a new study suggests that some species do indeed mate for life.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have found a mammalian species that is completely faithful: owl monkeys.

After studying 35 offspring from 17 pairs of owl monkeys, researchers discovered no signs of cheating; each male had only mated with one female.

“Our study is the first of any primate species, and only the fourth for a pair-living mammal, to show genetic monogamy, or real faithfulness, between partners,” said study author Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release.

"We never witnessed a little sneaky copulation with a neighbor, or that one partner dashed off for some time,” Fernandez-Duque said. “But true genetic monogamy is very rare. We would not have been surprised if there had been at least one non-pair infant, but there were none.”

After studying these monkeys for 18 years as part of the Owl Monkey Project, the researchers now believe the monkeys' faithful nature has a lot to do with the father's role in child care. The study stated that father monkeys contribute heavily to raising their young: carrying them on their bodies, playing with them and feeding them solid foods.

In fact, after studying 15 other mammalian species, researchers concluded that fathers in every species played a major role in monogamy. The more involved the males were in child care, the more likely the species was to exhibit genetic monogamy.

Indeed, one theory explaining the evolution of human monogamy suggests that people gravitated toward faithful, long-lasting relationships in order to better care for their children and to prevent infanticide.

What do you think: If some mammals are totally, genetically monogamous, could it be possible for humans too?

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