Of the over 5,000 mammal species in the world, monogamous relationships occur in only about 3 to 5 percent of them. But what is a monogamous relationship within the animal kingdom mean?
What are the 3 Types of Monogamous Types of Relationships?
Recent revelations from animal studies have enabled scientists to distinguish among three different types of monogamous relationships. The first is sexual, which is the practice of having sex with only one mate at a time. The second is social, where animals form pairs to mate and raise offspring, but may still “wander” on the side. The third is genetic, with DNA tests confirming that a female’s offspring were sired by only one father.
The fact is that strict monogamous relationships are quite rare. Faithfulness is very hard for animals, because it can potentially threaten their survival. Males are programmed to spread their genes, and females are programmed to search out the best genes for their offspring. Yet, in other cases, monogamy is what saves the species.
What Species Engage in One of These Forms of Monogamy?
There are a number of animal species that do engage in one or more types of monogamous relationships. For example, 90 percent of all birds are socially monogamous, living and raising young together, but many conduct extra-conjugal sexual relationships.
What Birds Practice Monogamy?
This is not true with bald eagles, which are known for not only mating for life, but also remaining faithful until one dies. The black vulture mates for life as well because of child-rearing duties. Both parents incubate the eggs, each taking a 24-hour shift. Then, when the offspring are born, both parents have the responsibility for feeding them during an eight-month period. Monogamy is so important to this species that if one is caught “cheating,” other vultures in the community will attack. The fact that both male and female tend to the offspring is another reason for monogamy. Penguins, while not mating for life, do mate for a season, again out of a need to save the species. While the female goes off to hunt for food, the male protects the eggs. However, swans, which were thought to mate for life, have been known to switch partners or even be unfaithful.
What Rodents Practice Monogamy?
In the rodent family, monogamous relationships can be found among prairie voles, who mate exclusively. The male vole will stick with the first female to whom he loses his virginity and is so loyal to her that he will attack other females rather than abandon her. Part of the reason, however, can be attributed to hormones found in prairie voles, which are known to trigger lasting relationships.
What Primates Practice Monogamy?
Only 6 percent of primate species are monogamous. Gibbons live in small, female-dominated monogamous families, raising as many as four offspring. While traditionally regarded as symbols of faithfulness, they have been known to cheat, abandon and even “divorce” one other.
What Wolves Practice Monogamy?
Traditionally, wolves are known as monogamous animals. A female wolf will typically mate with one male, but will take another if her mate dies, gets kicked out of the pack or is so injured or sick that he can’t breed.
What Sea Life Practice Monogamy?
Among sea denizens, paternity tests of bonnethead sharks show that a particular litter of baby sharks all come from the same father. Anglerfish take monogamous mating to a new level. The male bites into the flesh of his female mate, attaching to her body. His mouth fuses with her skin, and their bloodstreams merge. Once joined, the male degenerates, becoming strictly a source of sperm for the female. A female will often have several males attached to her at once.
There are tapeworms that live in the intestines of fish, because when they meet, they fuse together until death. Other types of worms found in the human body will have the females living inside the male. Spiders have a slightly different twist on monogamy. Males die during or after sex, but that’s because the females eat them. In a particular species, aurantia, a male will leave one of its mating appendages inside the female’s body during sex, preventing her from mating with other males.