Research Topic

What’s Love Got to Do with It: The Evolution of Monogamy

About this Research Topic

Monogamy has captivated humans in many cultures for centuries, an idea reflected by the observation that this mating arrangement is frequently the subject matter in art, religion and literature. The general interest in monogamy, in part, may be driven by a belief that who we mate with defines who we are. ...

Monogamy has captivated humans in many cultures for centuries, an idea reflected by the observation that this mating arrangement is frequently the subject matter in art, religion and literature. The general interest in monogamy, in part, may be driven by a belief that who we mate with defines who we are. However the interest in monogamy extends way beyond human mating behavior. In fact, the scientific study of monogamy has brought together researchers from diverse backgrounds including anthropology, behavioral ecology, psychology, pediatrics, neurobiology, endocrinology, and molecular biology. Some of this breadth stems from the many behaviors that are considered to be essential in defining monogamy, including: social association, attachment formation, sexual and mating behaviors, and bi-parental care of offspring. Nevertheless, there is still much we do not understand about this mating system, and our concept of monogamy has undergone major changes in relatively recent times. For example, early investigations of monogamy assumed that animals with a high degree of spatio-temporal overlap also mated exclusively with each other. We now know that this assumption is usually untrue. This realization has led to divorcing what is known about the more obvious social living arrangements from the sexual behaviors in which monogamous animals engage. In other words, parsing the differences between social monogamy and genetic monogamy, or stated in anthropomorphic terms, parsing out ‘love’ and ‘lust’.

Despite the great advances that have been made toward providing a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the many forms and functions of monogamy, a synthesis of recent progress is long overdue. This Research Topic aims to bring together experts from a variety of disciplines, conceptual approaches, and taxonomic backgrounds to showcase the state of the current understanding and evolution of monogamy. This collection of articles will serve as a systematic and concerted effort toward answering pressing questions that will provide a present-day understanding of monogamy and its evolution. Specifically, this collection chronicles some of the advances made toward expanding the base knowledge of monogamy in the natural world, the integration of new techniques to deepen the understanding of monogamy, the interplay between theory and empirical research, the importance of phylogenetic, genetic and developmental forces on the expression of monogamy, and the modern perspectives that have emerged from these recent advances. The ultimate aim of this collection is to broaden the conceptual framework that has defined our notion of monogamy, an inherently interesting, and at times idiosyncratic, system of mating and social organization.

Photo credit: Dr. Aubrey Kelly


Keywords: Social bonds or Pair-bonds and Attachment, Mating System, Proximate and Ultimate explanations, Biparental care, Mating exclusivity


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15 January 2018 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 January 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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