Good news! Evolutionary biologists have discovered a “cheating gene”, one that is present across numerous species. But, that doesn’t give you an excuse. Yet.
As the social truism goes: Once a cheater, always a cheater. However, established science finally exists to finally validate it. Evolutionary biologists have sifted through 450 million years of genetic history (and smutful acts) and miraculously discovered a genetic formula that appears to have turned non-monogamous animals monogamous.
The authors of the paper considered an animal monogamous only if it stays faithful with one partner over one mating season, and the two jointly raised their offspring. Naw, you guys.
The researchers identified the monogamous gene by studying pairs of species, where one species was monogamous, and the other wasn’t. The spread was pretty wide. Mice, voles, birds, fish and frogs. Oddly, some of the species remained monogamous in their evolutionary history, while the other decided to never settle down.
In all the measured cases (despite the wide variety of animals studied), scientists discovered the same gene changes exhibited in the species that became monogamous. Ostensibly, the evolution of monogamy is manifest through the gene, not the species.
“Most people wouldn’t expect that across 450 million years, transitions to such complex behaviours would happen the same way every time,” Rebecca Young, author of the study, told Psych.org. Of course, there’s a massive gap between monogamy in animals and humans, and how both are understood and actioned.
However, this research is important, as it certainly suggests that there’s a genetic element to this social behaviour. Simply put, it’s not just their personal choice, but also part of their genetic make-up.