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Genetic Switches Behind 'Love' Identified In Prairie Voles 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the beady-eye-of-the-beholder dept.
ananyo writes "Researchers have shown for the first time that the act of mating induces permanent chemical modifications in the chromosomes (epigenetic changes), affecting the expression of genes that regulate sexual and monogamous behavior in prairie voles. Prairie voles have long been of interest to neuroscientists and endocrinologists who study the social behavior of animals, in part because this species forms monogamous pair bonds — essentially mating for life. The voles' pair bonding, sharing of parental roles and egalitarian nest building in couples makes them a good model for understanding the biology of monogamy and mating in humans (abstract)."
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Genetic Switches Behind 'Love' Identified In Prairie Voles

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  • Good model?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:16PM (#43896895)

    The voles' pair bonding, sharing of parental roles and egalitarian nest building in couples makes them a good model for understanding the biology of monogamy and mating in humans

    A good model for ideal human behavior, sure, but actual behavior?!? One wonders if the researchers have met any actual human couples.

    • by dragon-file (2241656) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:32PM (#43897107)

      The voles' pair bonding, sharing of parental roles and egalitarian nest building in couples makes them a good model for understanding the biology of monogamy and mating in humans

      A good model for ideal human behavior, sure, but actual behavior?!? One wonders if the researchers have met any actual human couples.

      Of course they haven't met actually human couples. They're researchers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, prairie voles may be modeling humans a little better than you might think. Even within the mated pairs, some of them are "deadbeat dads" that have to be forced by the female to spend time with the pups. Some others also occasionally cheat on their partners.

        • by hazah (807503)
          I think he meant that the assertion that humans are monogamous may not be so accurate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      My wife is the type that got turned on by me being with other women. While this sounds awesome, I quickly found that it was too much trouble dealing with one (both physically and mentally), let alone multiple women was not as good as being monogamous. I think people stray from their partners for immediate, temporary gratification because of hormones and the excitement. If this option was on the table, folks would learn quickly the value of having one person
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854)

        I think people stray from their partners for immediate, temporary gratification because of hormones and the excitement. If this option was on the table, folks would learn quickly the value of having one person

        That's your experience.

        Thousands of polyamorous people have a quite different experience.

    • Re:Good model?!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:54PM (#43897429) Journal

      The voles' pair bonding, sharing of parental roles and egalitarian nest building in couples makes them a good model for understanding the biology of monogamy and mating in humans

      A good model for ideal human behavior, sure, but actual behavior?!? One wonders if the researchers have met any actual human couples.

      People like the vole model because prairie voles are(somewhat atypically) pair-bonded; but there is at least one closely related vole flavor that isn't. Makes narrowing down the elements involved (comparatively) pleasant and straightforward, by biology standards. Plus, 'vole' is pretty close to 'lab rat' in terms of size/cost/lifecycle-length/animal-rights-activists-setting-fire-to-your-lab, which makes it preferable to larger, more unwieldy, comparison animals.

    • Re:Good model?!? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Immerman (2627577) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:57PM (#43897493)

      Indeed. Primate monogmay correlates fairly well with proportional testical size - by which measure humans fall about midway between gorillas (where the females will reject advances by anyone but their troop leader) and chimpanzees (who use sex for a wide variety of social purposes and demonstrate almost no prolonged sexual pair-bonding).

      I would be inclined to suggest that holding long-term monogamy as the "ideal" human behavior is itself the source of the vast majority of the problems our species encounters in that domain. There are (were?) considerably advantages to such an arrangement when trying to establish stable sociological institutions upon which empires can be built, but those advantages come at the expense of trying to distort our basic natures into something that they are, generally speaking, not inclined to be.

      • by lgw (121541)

        All of society and culture is arguably "to distort our basic natures into something that they are, generally speaking, not inclined to be".

        Long-term monogamy is needed to establish a household for the raising and acculturating of children. Keeping a difficult relationship together for the sake of raising the kids benefits society as a whole to an extreme degree. Sure, there may be other approaches to raising kids, but none that have been proven effective.

        We have a real problem with culturally-accepted sho

        • Re:Good model?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dcollins (135727) on Monday June 03, 2013 @02:22PM (#43898369) Homepage

          So you support a society in which everyone is permanently miserable, because it serves to successfully perpetuate the permanently-miserable society.

          Well, you're certainly not alone.

          • Re:Good model?!? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by lgw (121541) on Monday June 03, 2013 @02:53PM (#43898699) Journal

            So you think that for a society in which there are two live-in caregivers the normal state is misery? Wow, you must be pretty unhappy.

            I think the big problem was that, for lack of reliable birth control, "sex for fun" got tangled up with "raising children". Spending 20 years with someone just because you had sex with them no doubt makes for much unhappiness. OTOH, waiting to have kids until you're ready to commit long term (as opposed to waiting to have sex until you're ready to commit long term) has proven itself a good strategy for the kids.

        • Keeping a difficult relationship together for the sake of raising the kids benefits society as a whole to an extreme degree.

          Holy crap, no, it really doesn't. Being a child to divorce parents really sucks, but if there's one thing that is worse is being a child in a household where the parents don't love each other, but remain together because of a misguided concept of responsibility. You can be perfectly responsible and a part of your child's life without being married to the other parent.

          Believe me, I know. I wish my parents had gotten divorced, but that's one of the things they cherry picked to follow in the catholic faith.

          • by lgw (121541)

            You can be perfectly responsible and a part of your child's life without being married to the other parent.

            Living together does not require marriage. Baby daddies are not fathers. Not that you specifically need a biological mother and father, but two live-in caregivers seems to be the key.

            Sure, sometimes having two caregivers living with a child still doesn't work out well, but on average it's the best system people have found. I think extended families probably help too, but I suspect that's about simply having a larger network from which to select those two caregivers.

            • Living together does not require marriage. Baby daddies are not fathers. Not that you specifically need a biological mother and father, but two live-in caregivers seems to be the key.

              Fair point, but that doesn't say much about monogamy. By your criteria, both parents can sleep around with whoever they like, as long as they raise the children together.

              • by lgw (121541)

                Sure, but most people can't make open relationships work. The expectation of monogamy means that most people keep it secret when they're cheating, which works better as a system.

                I think too many people naively expect that the "rules" we make as a society must match how we'd like people to behave. That forgets that "hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue". Sometimes, you just want people to keep things secret, because "doing it anyway but keeping it secret" is the best strategy for society.

        • There are lots of societal models that rely considerably less on parents specifically to raise children. It's obviously a benefit to have a stable family in which to raise children, but that doesn't mean that it's the only good way to do it. Socioeconomic status is a better predictor of child outcomes than most other metrics, which says to me that it just takes the stability and resources that most middle class families find with two parents--a single parent (say, a mother that adopts a child, or is artific

          • by lgw (121541)

            Like I said - there may be something much better, but not that has proven itself. I think the factor that's safest to change is that it certainly doesn't need to be the biological parents, but still some two live-in caregivers with strong emotional ties to the child (adoption seems to work out well, after all).

        • Long-term monogamy is needed to establish a household for the raising and acculturating of children. Keeping a difficult relationship together for the sake of raising the kids benefits society as a whole to an extreme degree. Sure, there may be other approaches to raising kids, but none that have been proven effective.

          You are describing a model that not only fits the western society alone, but it has also seen application for a relatively limited (culturally speaking) amount of time. In ancient Greece, for example, men were monogamous only in terms of an "official" partner. It was quite common to be involved with one or more hetaera, if one could afford it. They were, essentially, sex workers, but also wealthy and well-respected. Similar models can be found in Asia. This lasted up to the middle ages, in which religion ch

          • by lgw (121541)

            Well, good point. But very few people can make open relationships work in practice - jealousy seems to be genetic as well. I think if we could transition from the pre-birth-control "get married before you have sex" to a birth-control-works "get married before you have kids" there would be great benefit. Especially since most people seem to get tired of seeking new sexual partners and are ready to pick someone comfortable after a few years.

            • But very few people can make open relationships work in practice - jealousy seems to be genetic as well.

              Very few people can make closed monogamous relationships work in practice either. Almost no one spends their whole live with just one person. It's a much bigger gap from real monogamy -- only ever having a romantic/sexual relation with one person -- to serial monogamy, than from serial monogamy to polyamory.

              I think if we could transition from the pre-birth-control "get married before you have sex" to a b

              • by lgw (121541)

                If marriage does not mean "two people committed to raising children together" it's not a very useful word (otherwise society has no stake in who you live with). If it make you feel better, feel free to invent your own word that means "two people committed to raising children together" -but we need some word, because "two people committed to raising children together" is a mouthful.

      • timely and socially relevant pop culture reference. thanks

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      A good model for ideal human behavior, sure, but actual behavior?!?

      Not only is monogamy not what humans actually do (about half of all husbands and a third of all wives have affairs, at least in the US), it's questionable that monogamy is even a good idea - the motivating factors for it were (a) Protestant Christianity and (b) trying to ensure that patrilinear inheritance went to legitimate sons. Most societies historically were polygamous, and some societies still are polygamous.

      As an example of some radically different notions about it:
      - Plato suggested a system of rando

    • Understanding which switches work and how is going to help understand both ideal behavior AND actual behavior. Having some idea of what "ideal" might mean, helps to identify "deviant", and maybe to understand those deviations from the norm.

    • A good model for ideal human behavior, sure, but actual behavior?

      Note that although prairie voles do form life-long bonds, they are not sexually monogamous. The pair will stay together, and cooperate in raising offspring, but will copulate with others. That looks a lot like actual human behavior.

  • Quothe TFA:

    ..."a good model for understanding the biology of monogamy and mating in humans."

    When will the science of sociobiology get around to studying the epigenetics of the Baby Daddy [urbandictionary.com] and determine his species?

  • time to get me some prarie vole luvin'!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... humans aren't prarie voles, and aren't inherently monogamous. (If they were, I wouldn't be divorced and would have married the first person I slept with. *shudder* Look, I was young...)

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      So there are no mistakes with vole relationships?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        By definition, no. Any mistakes perceived by the vole would be removed by the chemical modifications.

        Praire voles have permanent beer-goggles.

    • by Nikkos (544004)
      Just because biology is talking, doesn't mean you have to listen.
      • by cellocgw (617879)

        Just because biology is talking, doesn't mean you have to listen.

        Now you've done it: cue the "free will" flame wars...

      • Re:Except... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MightyYar (622222) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:23PM (#43897797)

        Just because biology is talking, doesn't mean you have to listen.

        If that's your strategy, you probably are destined for disappointment. IMHO, it's best to learn how to identify and avoid situations that force you to confront your biology.

        • by Nikkos (544004)

          If that's your strategy, you probably are destined for disappointment. IMHO, it's best to learn how to identify and avoid situations that force you to confront your biology.

          That's nonsense, you confront your biology every day. Ever had to urinate but held it? Ever fallen in love with someone who didn't reciprocate? Ever wanted to hit your boss, but didn't? Ever cried, but didn't want to?

          Avoiding situations that forced you to confront your biology would boring as hell, and you couldn't do it anyway.

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            I think you're just proving the parent poster's point. Yes, I've suffered the pains of really needing to pee on a long trip --- which teaches me it's a whole lot smarter to head to the bathroom in advance when I have the chance, instead of waiting for the most inconvenient time to be desperate. I've cried when I didn't want to --- which pretty much shows I would've been happier avoiding whatever situation lead to biologically unstoppable crying. Same with wanting to hit your boss/authority-figure: sure woul

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              Yes, you got it...

              I was thinking more along the lines of: if you are married, don't go out for drinks with the cute girl from work :)

              And yes, that does make me slightly more boring - but that's rather the point! Not all kinds of excitement are good - get to know yourself and your weaknesses.

            • by Nikkos (544004)
              You mean you _choose_ to pee in a bathroom? I would have assumed you didn't even bother going inside and/or pissed in your car. Also, people cry when happy. I guess you'd avoid that type of happiness as well.

              Thank you for proving my point - we exert control over our biological impulses all the time, either ignoring them or choosing different ways/times to express them. We can't control all of them all of the time, and some can control themselves better than others, but just because biology is talking, d
              • by femtobyte (710429)

                You mean you _choose_ to pee in a bathroom?

                That's right --- before my biology "is talking" at all, if my rational mind knows I'm about to be in a situation without easy access to urinals, I'll squeeze out whatever I can in advance (despite feeling no biological need) to avoid later confrontation with biological imperatives.

                Also, people cry when happy. I guess you'd avoid that type of happiness as well.

                I said I tried to avoid situations that would make me cry when I didn't want to. But I'm not averse to happy crying (because that means I'm happy), so I've no need to avoid that type of situation at all.

                we exert control over our biological impulses all the time, either ignoring them or choosing different ways/times to express them.

                but we can also sometimes b

    • Re:Except... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by femtobyte (710429) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:22PM (#43897777)

      Humans aren't entirely monogamous, but along the spectrum observed in other species --- from rigid monogamy to "mate with anything that moves" --- humans are at least semi-monogamous; frequently pair-bonding, if not for life, at least for the relatively long period for offspring to be born and reach self-sufficient maturity. Understanding the biological mechanisms backing "strongly monogamous" mammalian behavior may also provide information about what biological mechanisms contribute to humans' less total tendencies towards monogamy.

      • humans are at least semi-monogamous; frequently pair-bonding, if not for life, at least for the relatively long period for offspring to be born and reach self-sufficient maturity.

        Are human truly naturally monogamous to any significant extent? Most of our society, religions, laws, entertainment, etc "strongly" encourage or even enforce it while similarly attempting to discourage polygamy.

        In such a heavily biased environment with sentience getting in nature's way at every opportunity, it is very difficult to tell if the root cause is nature or the environment... in nature, most males would jump on a female in heat flashing her goods with minimal encouragement (known to occur even with

        • by femtobyte (710429)

          Disentangling the extent of genetic vs. cultural factors in monogamy will indeed be difficult to do. Understanding the mechanisms in related species can help with this: once you've identified what makes voles stay together, if you can show that humans are entirely lacking the corresponding genes/mechanisms, then you have evidence pointing more towards purely cultural monogamy. If you find that humans share similar structures, that get activated by and maintained for long periods after "pair bonding" events,

  • Misplaced modifier, ahoy!

    "Genetic Switches Behind 'Love' in Prarie Voles Identified" would be the more accurate (although poorly written) version

  • Or the opposite (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cellocgw (617879) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <wgcollec>> on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:24PM (#43896999) Journal

    Somehow I strongly doubt that any such epigenetic (or other) monogamy-influencing event takes place when humans mate.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...the event must happen before mating. I still can't stop thinking about that sorority girl and she wouldn' t give me the time of day.

    • by ananyo (2519492)

      On what evidence? It seems pretty obvious that -some- sort of epigenetic changes happen in the human brain too on -some- occasions. I doubt the researchers are arguing that human pair-bonding happens in exactly the same way as in prairie voles - just that there are some parallels. In any case, the cool thing is that they've shown epigenetic changes behind pair-bonding for the first time. (There's plenty of evidence that epigenetic changes influence other forms of complex human behaviour (eg see http://www.n [nature.com]

    • by mu22le (766735)

      Somehow I strongly doubt that any such epigenetic (or other) monogamy-influencing event takes place when humans mate.

      Tell that to your oxytocin receptors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_motivation_and_hormones#Oxytocin_and_vasopressin)

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        Sure, but unless you can show that oxytocin is actually a causative agent of long-term pair-bonding, my point stands. It sure doesn't seem to do so from what I see in "real life."

        • Re:Or the opposite (Score:5, Informative)

          by Immerman (2627577) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:17PM (#43897721)

          There is minimal evidence to suggest that humans are biologically predsposed to long-term pair bonding at all, in fact there's considerable evidence to the contrary. Oxytocin does however seem to be a significant agent in the amount of pair-bonding we are predisposed to.

          The problem is that researchers like these try to use species that are biologically inclined to long-term monogamy as models for an unrelated species (us) that are sociologically biased towards it. Because the basic fact is that sociological behaviors operate on an almost completely different set of rules, and changes on timescales that genetics can't hope to respond to effectively.

          So how about for a change instead of trying to shoehorn human behavior into some sort of arbitrary "moral ideal", we instead take a good hard look at what we actually are, and adjust our sociological and moral norms to be in line with our basic natures. Socially enforced monogamy was a useful solution to support child-rearing as our societies grew beyond the scale where tribalism was effective, but it was hardly the *only* solution, and irrationally clinging to it as the ideal today, when pretty much everything else about our society has been utterly transformed, is intellectually questionable at best.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            I think (observationally/anecdotally) that humans have a variety of predispositions in the monogamy area. Some people are incapable of it, some are super predisposed to it. I haven't personally seen these traits correlate with peoples adherence to social norms in other areas. We'll see more public non-monogamy I assume that just as there is a spectrum of suexual orientations, and sex drives, there is a spectrum of pairing drive for lack of a better term. The way that people are driven to behave non-monogamo

          • by khallow (566160)

            So how about for a change instead of trying to shoehorn human behavior into some sort of arbitrary "moral ideal", we instead take a good hard look at what we actually are, and adjust our sociological and moral norms to be in line with our basic natures.

            What makes you think we haven't done this already? There is some need to restrain "basic nature" behavior such as theft, rape, murder, etc. And any such rule set is going to be somewhat arbitrary in how it is constructed.

            • by TheLink (130905)

              The experimental and somewhat haphazard domestication of homo sapiens by homo sapiens continues.

              As observed in other species, domesticated breeds become significantly different from wild ones over generations:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesticated_silver_fox [wikipedia.org]
              The researchers even bred very vicious foxes.

              We wouldn't have got to where we are if we just stuck to being "chimps" or "gorillas" long ago. Sticking to what our genes are is overrated. Extending the survival of this species likely depends on figuring

  • NIMH (Score:5, Funny)

    by Antipater (2053064) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:35PM (#43897143)

    "This is a study I myself wanted to do years ago,” says Thomas Insel, who heads the US National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. “...This study for me really is the first experimental demonstration that the epigenetic change would be necessary for the long-term change in behaviour.”

    Insel continued. "Unfortunately, due to a scandalous bit of contrived fiction, we here at NIMH have been prohibited from doing this kind of work for decades. Every attempt to work on a rodent model is sabotaged, with a Frisbee left at the scene and the words 'REMEMBER NICODEMUS' spray-painted on the wall. Police never found a suspect, and eventually Congress pulled the funding. Hopefully our colleagues at Florida State can continue this valuable work without such interference!"

  • While they're at it, could they also do some work on hypergamy?
    Maybe *gasp* come up with a cure or at least some treatment?

    This condition afflicts the great majority of woemn in the U.S.
    Some you know suffers from it..
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Is it a problem? Assuming for the moment that "marrying up" is indeed a trend among women and not just a popular colloquialism, the natural extrapolation is that there are even more women "marrying down" (hypogamy) - they do after all outnumber men by ~2% (51% vs 49% in all societies that don't artificially bias their gender mix).

      In fact it seems to me there are really only two options - either numerous individuls are "marrying up/down", or you end up with a very stratified society where virtually nobody

      • by femtobyte (710429)

        or you end up with a very stratified society where virtually nobody marries anyone outside their current socio-economic caste.

        Well, at least in the US, "very stratified society" is a fairly apt description. Some basic statistics are available in the Wikipedia article on US social mobility [wikipedia.org]. While not "officially" enforced as in a caste system, the US has many institutions that discourage inter-class mixing. People of considerably different economic status generally grow up in different neighborhoods, go to different schools, and end up in a formally class-stratified workplace (with distinct "labor" vs. "management" roles, correspon

        • Sadly, you're fighting human nature here. F'rinstance, say you're a successful white guy with a Masters or PhD, a salary in the low six figures and have always lived in an upper middle class milleau. Are you going to marry your Mexican maid, who barely speaks English and never finished high school? It does happen, but not often, no matter how inherently brilliant, or wonderful a person the maid or the white guy might be. Neither of you fit into each other's lives or families. Most people take an easier road

          • Re:Hypergamy Cure? (Score:4, Informative)

            by femtobyte (710429) on Monday June 03, 2013 @02:14PM (#43898293)

            One can hardly call this "human nature" when pretty much every other developed country has higher equality and social mobility --- if anything, the US is bucking the trend of human nature to seek higher ideals of equality and freedom once technological development allows the satisfaction of lower needs. Of course, the key is not convincing more rich white male rich guys to marry their Mexican maids despite a complete lack of shared culture, but to create a society where there is a sense of shared culture and humanity between people in all walks of life. For example, having a robust and high-quality public education system so both the kids of millionaires and janitors grow up socializing together is a key component in more egalitarian societies. So to is having high minimum wage standards and social safety nets, so that even maids can have time/access to hobbies and culture and forming relationships outside of a depressed community of grinding poverty. When living on a lower quintile income isn't a death sentence for your children's hopes and dreams and future, then there is much less of a barrier to marrying for love across income lines.

            • ...bucking the trend of human nature to seek higher ideals of equality and freedom once technological development allows the satisfaction of lower needs.

              I wish this were true, but it's not, or the USA wouldn't be trending so far in the other direction. Moreover, cultures which had relatively long term stability and prosperity (e.g. Rome, Ancient Egypt, the Mayans), were not exactly shining examples of "seeking higher ideals of equality and freedom." The price of prosperity in all these cultures was slavery.

              • by femtobyte (710429)

                I wish this were true, but it's not, or the USA wouldn't be trending so far in the other direction.

                But then why is the US an outlier in equality/mobility? Why is the US more representative of human nature than Denmark, Canada, Australia, Germany, or Japan (for example)? Rather than attributing the rightward drift of the US to "human nature," wouldn't it make more sense to draw the conclusion that there's a positive feedback between high concentration of political/media/social control in the hands of a tiny wealthy elite, and policy shifts to favor further strengthening the power of the wealthy elite?

                It wasn't human nature or technological development, per se, that allowed greater equality. It was the exploitation of hydrocarbon energy.

                A.K.

                • But then why is the US an outlier in equality/mobility?
                  We were, and are an outlier because we started on a continent whose resources had not yet been exploited, and had enough land area which could be used as an outlet for both criminals, entrepeneurs and those in-between. Resource wealth and a measure of geographical freedom allowed a measure of social mobility. Australia has a similar history.

                  Hydrocarbon energy isn't "technology" any more than Niagra falls is technology. It's an energy source which was ul

                  • by femtobyte (710429)

                    Resource wealth and a measure of geographical freedom allowed a measure of social mobility.

                    The US has extremely low social mobility, tied with the UK for lowest mobility among developed nations. Since the UK is basically the opposite of what your theory says shaped US social mobility, I'd say your theory has some problems.

                    Australia has a similar history.

                    Then why did Australia end up with significantly higher social mobility and economic equality?

                    Hydrocarbon energy isn't "technology" any more than Niagra falls is technology. It's an energy source which was ultimately exploited using technology.

                    Fair enough; but if you want to stick with this pedantic distinction, then it's wrong to say that "hydrocarbons" were the force behind social changes --- since it was the *technology* u

  • why would they research some other animals when there are plenty of humans available to do direct research on. I am sure lots of people would volunteer. Does this even need to be researched? Human are not monogamous, they do like to pair up and that is probably to raise the offspring
  • by houbou (1097327)
    Maybe the simplicity of the voles' nature and their lifestyle and habitats are more conducive towards monogamy.
  • Bonobos (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcollins (135727) on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:39PM (#43897205) Homepage

    "a good model for understanding the biology of monogamy and mating in humans"

    Are humans that close to prairie voles? Because bonobos, our closest actual relation evolutionary speaking, are highly sexualized and totally polygamous.

    http://brembs.net/bonobos.html [brembs.net]

    Of course, if one is seeking to bolster some culturally-determined myth of monogamy (so as to uphold property rights and inheritance, perhaps) then you've got to look pretty far afield for examples of monogamous species.

    • by ananyo (2519492)

      Actually, the parallel to bonobos is inaccurate-despite the genetic similarities, they're not the closest primate model to us in terms of our secual behaviour. There are plenty of reasons to strongly suspect that humans are somewhat monogamous - eg human males and females are around the same size - for various reasons, strongly polygamous species tend to have larger males, smaller females. Of-course humans are not strictly monogamous - few stick with just one partner for their whole lives - but then neither

      • by dcollins (135727)

        "There are plenty of reasons to strongly suspect that humans are somewhat monogamous - eg human males and females are around the same size - for various reasons, strongly polygamous species tend to have larger males, smaller females."

        How is that size ratio different from the polygamous bonobos? Humans and bonobos both have about the same size between genders (among other similarities in sex organs). Perhaps you're thinking of gorillas that have a 2:1 size difference and a polygynous (alpha male mates with a

    • Voles are a good model because they relatively neatly elucidate the mechanism: you have access to both pair-bonding voles and (quite similar) non-bonding species, which narrows the search space considerably. Plus, bonobos are big, relatively rare, and have fairly long lifecycles, which makes doing potentially invasive and dangerous research(like determining that you've found the correct switch by patching a vole to change its behavior) without dedicating a decade or two, a substantial amount of money, and s

    • by mdielmann (514750)

      Of course, if one is seeking to bolster some culturally-determined myth of monogamy (so as to uphold property rights and inheritance, perhaps) then you've got to look pretty far afield for examples of monogamous species.

      So, what's the reason in your conspiracy-riddled world that we use rats and mice for so much of the basic research modern scientists do? It certainly can't be all the other commonalities between rats and voles, can it?

      Monogamy is a cultural fact, going back thousands of years (same for polygamy). Finding an acceptable model is the first step in seeing if it also has a biological basis. And here's this handy little creature with the trait we want to study and a short lifespan. Even if they're wrong about

  • I'll give the summary writer a bit of a break since they did put "love" in quotes, but let's not take this concept too far. I love a number of people with whom I have never mated; and there are several people with whom I have mated that I do not love.

    The article writers, to their credit, do not use the term "love" anywhere in their abstract.

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Monday June 03, 2013 @01:27PM (#43897835)
    Ask any woman and they will tell you that all men are not voles, but are in fact, pigs.
  • Humans are not at all biologically monogamous. Monogamy exists only as a social construct for the human species.

  • (In more ways than one!)

    Imagine being able to determine (or having someone determine for you!) who you fall in love with. A real life "love potion" as it were.

    It would be the end of civilization as we know it. If it were used "rationally" we could end up as a society of Vulcans, with love (and mating) at carefully proscribed times and settings (it was called "Pon Far" or something like that). If it were used as a means of control, it could usher in a true "Brave New World". If it were used like the Inte

    • I suspect that the effects would be unpleasant for our(already somewhat tattered) delusions of free will; but probably less socially dramatic than might be expected: after all, a nontrivial amount of human pair bonding throughout history has been driven by a combination of economic need, social pressure, and good, old-fashioned violence. The use of more sophisticated chemical/biological coercion, to subvert the individual's preference rather than overpower it, would be an interesting twist; but would probab

      • You underestimate the human capacity for denial. Even if you could come up with an absolutely perfect, mathematically sound, undeniable proof that all events are predetermined... most people would refuse to believe it, and those who did believe wouldn't do anything differently.

    • In the book "Godel, Escher, Bach" my faint recollection is that the author claimed any programmable machine can be fed a program that can make it "halt". One example given was that of a simple record player; when a specially crafted record was played the precisely made vibrations was such that the turntable shook itself apart (halted). Maybe all intelligent creatures carry this same flaw and as our science and technology we are coming closer and closer to finding it.

      Of course we have this "halting" flaw. We see it all the time already. One pop-culture method of exploiting it involves a specially programmed 1/3 ounce piece of lead delivered to the central processing unit at speed.

  • ...is a good time for fidelity :-)
  • that if they are no longer having sex that the change reverts. IOW, lack of sex leads to destruction in monogamy.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday June 03, 2013 @02:32PM (#43898497)

    Culturally maybe, but not biologically. I just read an article a few months back about why our penises are shaped the way they are. Basically, the head is optimized to siphon another male's semen out of a woman during the thrusting action. That slightly uncomfortable sensitivity you feel after orgasm is nature's way to stop your thrusting so you don't accidentally siphon out your own semen.

  • What are Voles? And why should we pattern human behavior after them? According to rules of natural selection, I would think they are soon to be an endangered species.
  • Once the full mechanism is understood, how could it be manipulated?

    - The 'love potion' - slip this into your rich boyfriend's dinner and give the romance a little aid.
    - The 'love poison' - need to discredit a politician or public figure? A little of this and a bit of time, one affair made to order.
    - The 'love killer' - falling in love, but need to focus on your career? Take a shot of this stuff and the love of your life becomes just another notch on the bedpost.
    - Added bonus: Kid dating the wrong kind of gi

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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