In the Animal Kingdom, Couples Are Often More “Monogam-ish” Than Monogamous

That an animal “mates for life” doesn’t often mean what you think it means

Are any Animals Truly Monogamous?

At 63-or-so years old, Wisdom the Albatross is the oldest known wild bird in the world. Albatrosses mate for life, forming strong pair bonds with their partners. And, sure, because of sheer longevity Wisdom has had a few mates in her time, but to those mates Wisdom has been true (so far as we know). But for albatrosses, or doves, or even love birds, monogamy is a little different than how we define it in human relationships.

In the video above, Henry Reich and the team at Minute Earth explore animal bonding, finding that couples are often more monogamish than monogamous. Albatrosses, for example, are what's known as “socially monogamous.” They form a strong bonds, but when it comes to sexy time, gazes can wander. Strong social bonds have a benefit, but as Minute Earth notes, so does casting a wider net, reproductively speaking.

It's hard to abstract from other animals to us, living in our world of cultural and societal norms. But as Dan Savage, the guy who coined the word monogamish noted, you probably know more socially monogamous—and only socially monogamous—people than you think.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.