How does monogamy work in the wild?
Can monogamy really exist in the wild? Most animals wouldn’t even attempt to stay faithful to one partner, but three per cent of mammals like to settle down with their one true love. That said, researchers are finding that even the most committed pairs might have flings on the side. Meet the wildlife with roaming eyes.
The Nearly Committed
Some animals are socially monogamous, meaning they might pick one partner for life but they’ve been known to cheat every so often.
Beavers choose a mate for life and work hard on their relationships. Both males and females take on responsibility when they have young and they are so attached that they will stay together as a team until one of the partners dies. That said, beavers have been known to have affairs. But even a wandering eye can’t break up this team.
Wolves breed about once a year in the wild. They’ll often choose one mate and stay true to them for many years, until one of the partners dies. However, sometimes they’ll abandon their mate if they are past their prime and can no longer procreate.
Prairie Voles are like the poster child of monogamy in animals. These small rodents, which occupy the grasslands of Canada, create an unbreakable bond with one mate and are often attached at the hip until one or the other dies. They’re also amazing partners – they both take lead roles raising their young and they spend time grooming each other too.
It’s rare to find Prairie Voles rolling in the hay with another mate, but one study found that 10 per cent of male Prairie Voles cheated on their mates when presented with another female. That said, they’re pretty loyal mates. Fewer than 20 per cent of Prairie Voles will seek another partner after their one true love dies.
Don’t Tie Me Down!
It’s pretty rare to find mammals that are monogamous. Most will mate with multiple partners and some are even polygamous.
Dolphins are known for being incredibly social animals. Their pods can range from 12 to 1,000 individuals! These marine mammals would never bother to be monogamous; they’d much prefer to share their love. When a female strikes a male’s fancy, he’ll swim up to her and nuzzle away until she gives him the green light.
Male walruses have a huge harem of female walruses, called cows. The male will mate with all the cows by luring them special vocalizations. Underwater the sounds can sound like clicks or even bells and on land they sound more like whistles. They’re also awfully protective of their harem, challenging any male that gets too close to a cow with loud roars.