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J Theor Biol. 1983 Sep 7;104(1):93-112.

The evolution of monogamy in primates.


The evolution of primate monogamy is described as an ordered sequence of choices by generalized, hypothetical females and males. Females first choose whether or not to associate with other females. Predators encourage gregariousness in diurnal primates; however, nocturnality or scarce and evenly distributed food supplies may enforce separation. A testable group size model based on food patch size is developed and qualitatively supported. If females choose solitude, males then choose either to defend a single female and invest in her offspring, or to compete with other males for access to several females, usually by defending a territory or establishing dominance over the home ranges of several females. The decision rests on the defensibility of females and on the availability of an effective form of male parental investment. Both of these factors are dependent on local female population density. A model is developed that assumes that territorial defense is the principal form of male parental investment, and it predicts that monogamy should occur at intermediate densities: at high densities, males should switch to defense of multiple females, and at low densities there is no investment value in male territorial defense. The model is shown to be only partly adequate. Variation in local population densities prevents the establishment of obligate monogamy through territoriality in small monkeys, since male territorial behavior is inconsistent over the long run. Here, carrying of offspring by males can succeed territoriality, providing an effective and reliable form of parental investment to maintain the pair bond in the face of population fluctuations and changes in group structures. This hypothesis is supported by the scarcity of obligate monogamy among the prosimians, which frequently do not carry their young.

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