• The evolution of pair-living, sexual monogamy, and cooperative infant care: Insights from research on wild owl monkeys, titis, sakis, and tamarins

      Fernandez-Duque, Eduardo; Huck, Maren; Van Belle, Sarie; Di Fiore, Anthony; University of Derby; Yale University; University of Austin, Texas (Wiley, 2020-03-19)
      “Monogamy” and pair bonding have long been of interest to anthropologists and primatologists. Their study contributes to our knowledge of human evolutionary biology and social evolution without the cultural trappings associated with studying human societies directly. Here, we first provide an overview of theoretical considerations, followed by an evaluation of recent comparative studies of the evolution of “social monogamy”; we are left with serious doubts about the conclusions of these studies that stem from the often poor quality of the data used and an overreliance on secondary sources without vetting the data therein. We then describe our field research program on four “monogamous” platyrrhines (owl monkeys, titis, sakis, and tamarins), evaluate how well our data support various hypotheses proposed to explain “monogamy,” and compare our data to those reported on the same genera in comparative studies. Overall, we found a distressing lack of agreement between the data used in comparative studies and data from the literature for the taxa that we work with. In the final section, we propose areas of research that deserve more attention. We stress the need for more high‐quality natural history data, and we urge researchers to be cautious about the uncritical use of variables of uncertain internal validity. Overall, it is imperative that biological anthropologists establish and follow clear criteria for comparing and combining results from published studies and that researchers, reviewers, and editors alike comply with these standards to improve the transparency, reproducibility, and interpretability of causal inferences made in comparative studies.