Sarah Hirsch


Monogamy in the Great Apes and its significance for Humans



            The idea of monogamy in humans has long been debated. Are we truly a monogamous society?  Is complete monogamy something that is created by nature or society? By examining some of our closest relatives, the great apes, we can learn more about our true nature.  Many scientists in the past, such as Alan Dixson and Agustin Fuentes, looked just at their mating behavior as well as our own, and saw that complete monogamy does not truly exist, but in fact monogamy can mean many different things. This forced us to re-evaluate what we find our social norm of mating behavior to be and look at different forms of mating behaviors.  As technology has advanced, scientists have been able to look more deeply at the brain to see what factors play into monogamy. It has been found that a larger neocortex size leads to more social complexity, thus more monogamy. The next step in my research would be to use some of these new technologies, such as MRIís, to look at individual brains in both humans and great apes. I would then  be able to look at their sexual histories and behaviors to draw conclusion about whether neocortex size varies, and what that means for monogamy.