Washington, October 15 Men have greater reproductive success when they spend more time looking after children, and not necessarily just their own, according to a study by Gorillas.
Researchers have already discovered that wild male mountain gorillas living in Rwanda do something unusual for a mammal – they help to take care of all the children who live in their social group, regardless of whether they are the father are.
The goal of the new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was to find out why.
"Mountain gorillas and humans are the only large monkeys in which males regularly develop strong social ties with children, so we learn what mountain gorillas do and why we understand how human males have made their way to our more involved form of fatherhood." said Stacy Rosenbaum, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in the US.
The results contradict what we normally think of male mountain gorillas ̵
"Men spend a lot of time with groups of children – and those who care for and rest more with them have more reproductive opportunities," said Christopher Kuzawa, a professor at Northwestern University.
"A likely interpretation is that females choose to mate with males based on these interactions," Kuzawa said.
"We have long known that male mountain gorillas compete with each other for access to females and mating opportunities, but this new data suggests that they could have a more diverse strategy," Rosenbaum said.
"Even after multiple control of dominance ranks, age, and reproductive opportunities, males who have these attachments to children are much more successful," he said.
This research suggests an alternative way by which father behavior could have evolved in our own species, Rosenbaum said.
"We have traditionally believed that the care of men relies on a specific social structure, monogamy, because it helps men look after their own children.
"Our data suggest that there is an alternative way for evolution to produce this behavior, even if the males do not know who their offspring are," Rosenbaum said.
This raises the possibility that similar behaviors may have been important in the initial establishment of father behavior in distant human ancestors, researchers said.
They are currently investigating whether hormones could play a role in facilitating these masculine behaviors, as is the case in humans.
"In men, testosterone decreases as men become fathers, and this should help focus their attention on the needs of the newborn," Kuzawa said. SAR