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Rhesus Macaques : Recent Study

Rhesus Macaques : Recent Study

A recent study conducted by researchers from Imperial College London, titled “Genetics, Social Environment and Evolution of Male Same-Sex Behavior in Rhesus Macaques,” has challenged conventional beliefs about same-sex behaviour (SSB) in animals.

  • The engagement of animals in SSB has been considered a ‘Darwinian paradox’: if reproduction is critical to evolution, then SSB – which is non-reproductive – should have ceased to exist.
  • This recent study found that male SSB in rhesus macaques is very common and doesn’t harm evolution.

Key Findings from the Study:

  • The study focuses on male same-sex mounting behaviour observed in rhesus macaques, a common monkey model, in Cayo Santiago, an island east of Puerto Rico.
  • 72% of observed male rhesus macaques engaged in same-sex mounting.
  • Only 46% participated in different-sex mounting.
  • It challenges the notion that SSB contradicts principles of evolution due to its non-reproductive nature.
  • The study considers external factors like social interactions and the environment.
  • These non-genetic elements contribute to the expression of SSB behaviour in male rhesus macaques.
  • SSB-engaging monkeys form coalitions against common enemies.
  • Male SSB could serve as a form of emotional communication and regulation.
  • The study disputes the assumption that SSB reduces reproductive opportunities, as sexually active males engage in both SSB and different-sex sexual behaviour (DSB).
  • There is no direct correlation between SSB engagement and reduced offspring count in the macaque population.