Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Most Species, Faithfulness Is a Fantasy

This post has the title of a great article by Natalie Angier in the NYTimes Science section. Elliot Spitzer was doing nothing that hasn't been done by males and females of thousands of other species - representatives of every taxonomic twig on the great tree of life.
Even the “oldest profession” that figured so prominently in Mr. Spitzer’s demise is old news. Nonhuman beings have been shown to pay for sex, too. Reporting in the journal Animal Behaviour, researchers from Adam Mickiewicz University and the University of South Bohemia described transactions among great grey shrikes, elegant raptorlike birds with silver capes, white bellies and black tails that, like 90 percent of bird species, form pair bonds to breed. A male shrike provisions his mate with so-called nuptial gifts: rodents, lizards, small birds or large insects that he impales on sticks. But when the male shrike hankers after extracurricular sex, he will offer a would-be mistress an even bigger kebab than the ones he gives to his wife — for the richer the offering, the researchers found, the greater the chance that the female will agree to a fly-by-night fling.

In another recent report from the lubricious annals of Animal Behaviour entitled “Payment for sex in a macaque mating market,” Michael D. Gumert of Hiram College described his two-year study of a group of longtailed macaques that live near the Rimba ecotourist lodge in the Tanjung Puting National Park of Indonesia. Dr. Gumert determined that male macaques pay for sex with that all-important, multipurpose primate currency, grooming. He saw that, whereas females groomed males and other females for social and political reasons — to affirm a friendship or make nice to a dominant — and mothers groomed their young to soothe and clean them, when an adult male spent time picking parasites from an adult female’s hide, he expected compensation in the form of copulation, or at the very least a close genital inspection. About 89 percent of the male-grooming-female episodes observed, Dr. Gumert said in an interview from Singapore, where he is on the faculty of Nanyang Technological University, “were directed toward sexually active females” with whom the males had a chance of mating.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:34 AM

    Everything we see in nature is the desire to receive pleasure and its fulfillment. The behaviour of the Macaque monkeys is an expression of that desire at the animate level. The males have a desire for sex and use their mind to carry out the necessary actions to fulfill that desire. Humans run on the same operating principle: maximum pleasure for least amount of work. We do this for the purpose of receiving pleasure for ourselves. Ultimately, this program of receiving for oneself leaves us unfulfilled and chasing one desire after another. By changing our inner programming to receive for the sake of others, we can rise to a higher degree where we feel our existence as eternal and experience true fulfillment and unbounded pleasure. For more information see here: