Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Female choice key to evolutionary shift to modern family

Date:
May 30, 2012
Source:
University of Tennessee
Summary:
How females chose their mates played a critical role in human evolution by leading to monogamous relationships, which laid the foundation for the institution of the modern family.

It is a question that has puzzled evolutionary biologists for years: Why did we stop being promiscuous and decide to settle down to start families?
Credit: XtravaganT / Fotolia

It is a question that has puzzled evolutionary biologists for years: Why did we stop being promiscuous and decide to settle down to start families?

Sergey Gavrilets, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, may have found the answer, and it lies in the power of female choice. The study reveals how females chose their mates played a critical role in human evolution by leading to monogamous relationships, which laid the foundation for the institution of the modern family.

Using mathematical modeling, the associate director for scientific activities at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at UT has discovered that the transformation may have occurred when early-hominid females started choosing males who were good providers.

Gavrilets' findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The "sexual revolution" entailed males first competing with other males for dominance, as a way to get matings. However, low-ranked males—and eventually all males except those with the highest societal stature—began supplying females with provisions in what is called "food-for-mating" to get a leg up on the competition. Females showed preference for the "provisioning" males, leading males' energy to be spent on providing for females and females becoming increasingly faithful. This spurred self-domestication and the modern family as we know it today.

"This change has confounded scientists for a long time because many species would be much better off evolutionarily if the effort spent on males competing for mates was redirected towards increasing female fertility or survivorship of their offspring," said Gavrilets.

The study demonstrates mathematically that the most commonly proposed theories for the transition to human pair bonding—or coupling—are not biologically feasible.

However, the study advances a new model showing that the transition to pair-bonding can occur when female choice and faithfulness, among other factors, are included. The result is an increased emphasis on males provisioning females over male competition for mating.

"The study reveals that female choice played a crucial role in human evolution," said Gavrilets.

According to Gavrilets, the transition to coupling has opened the path to intensified male parental investment, which was a breakthrough adaptation with multiple anatomical, behavioral and physiological consequences for early hominids and for all of their descendants. It shifted the dynamic away from males competing with each other for sex to males competing with each other to see who is a better provider to get better mates.

"Pair bonding laid the foundation for a later emergence of the institution of the modern family," said Gavrilets.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Tennessee. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Gavrilets. Human origins and the transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1200717109

Cite This Page:

University of Tennessee. "Female choice key to evolutionary shift to modern family." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120530172011.htm>.
University of Tennessee. (2012, May 30). Female choice key to evolutionary shift to modern family. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120530172011.htm
University of Tennessee. "Female choice key to evolutionary shift to modern family." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120530172011.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) As states slash funding for mental health services, police officers are interacting more than ever with people suffering from schizophrenia and other serious disorders of the mind. The consequences can be deadly. (April 10) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Newsy (Apr. 9, 2014) A University of Pittsburgh study found pop music that mentions alcohol is linked to higher drinking rates among teens. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Family Values: Faithful Females Who Choose Good Providers Key to Evolutionary Shift to Modern Family, Study Finds

May 28, 2012 In early human evolution, when faithful females began to choose good providers as mates, pair-bonding replaced promiscuity, laying the foundation for the emergence of the institution of the modern ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins