Friday, January 17, 2014

How Monkeys Flirt

Here’s a topic to provoke your interest, if not your curiosity: the mating rituals of capuchin monkeys.

After all, you might want to improve your dating skills by getting in touch with your inner Darwinian forebear.

Anyway, scientists have discovered that when female capuchin monkeys want to mate, they throw rocks at desirable male monkeys. Then they run off, the better to allow the males to chase them.

Most of the time the rocks do not hit the male monkeys, but when they do, apparently, they manage to get the male’s erotic attention. I suppose it makes the males feel wanted or selected.

This piece of ritualized behavior demonstrates that male primates are not naturally inclined to force themselves on unwilling females. 

Before the most recent studies, scientists had observed that female monkeys would try to attract male lust by whining or pouting. Sometimes they would run up to a male, touch him, and then scurry off.

Obviously, these are all easily recognized variants on female flirting behavior. Now, the latest scientific research has demonstrated that  throwing rocks counts as one of the most successful ways to elicit male desire.

New York Magazine has the compelling story:

Capuchins (like humans) must perform some sort of mating ritual, since they don't display physical indicators of fertility. But this sort of behavior has never been witnessed in the wild before, say the scientistsobserving the monkeys. Previously, they reported, females would pout or whine loudly or touch males and run away in order to show their affections. But, as every dating book tells the girl monkeys, the game has changed. If these girl monkeys really want to snag a suitable monkey-mate, they're going to have to pick up the rock.

The rationale for these exercises lies in the fact that female capuchins, like female humans do not, as New York explains, “display physical indicators of fertility.”

Human females have been known to use fashion and cosmetics to send out the right signals to the right males. And they have added elaborate courtship rituals to express interest without expressing too much interest. If all else fails, there are always “the rules.” Obviously, it all makes good Darwinian sense.

The most recent research, however, has made an important contribution to our understanding. It has offered a definitive justification for Title IX.

I thought you’d want to know.


Anonymous said...

Racy post, Stuart. I thought this was a family-friendly blog.


Kath said...

Very funny post. Will tell my daughters about this.