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Genetic Switches Behind 'Love' Identified In Prairie Voles 102

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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  • 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. []

    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.

  • Re:Good model?!? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 03, 2013 @12:42PM (#43897235)
    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: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 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.

  • Re:Good model?!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 03, 2013 @02:50PM (#43898673)

    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.

  • 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.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan