Same-sex attachments in chimpanzees may have led to romantic love in humans

A new hypothesis put forth by a researcher at The University of Texas at Austin suggests that romantic heterosexual relationships in humans may have originated from same-sex pairings in a common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. This alternative viewpoint challenges the prevailing explanation that heterosexual bonding evolved from the mother-infant bond observed in many mammals. In a paper published in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology, anthropology professor Aaron Sandel draws on primate research, including his own extensive studies of chimpanzees, to propose that human behavior evolved from preexisting same-sex pair bonding seen in a shared ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.

While chimpanzees, our closest relatives, do not form enduring bonds with their mates, adult male chimpanzees do develop long-lasting same-sex bonds. Sandel suggests that these relationships exhibit emotional connections and various indicators of pair bonding, such as reduced stress levels, partner-specific behaviors, and potentially even signs of jealousy. These traits have often been overlooked or misinterpreted in previous research, as chimpanzees also engage in social behaviors with non-partners within their larger social groups.

By highlighting the existence of same-sex attachments among chimpanzees, Sandel proposes that these types of relationships may have existed in early humans before the emergence of opposite-sex pair bonds with mates. This hypothesis challenges the notion that unique human traits, such as bipedalism, large brains in infants, hunting, or fire-making, played a crucial role in the evolution of pair bonding. Instead, Sandel suggests that the origin of romantic love in humans could be traced back to same-sex friendships observed in our primate relatives.

This perspective encourages a reevaluation of the significance of same-sex bonds and friendships in both our evolutionary history and our own lives. It highlights the possibility that the importance of these relationships may have been underestimated, and that they may have played a fundamental role in shaping human social dynamics and the development of romantic relationships.

Source: University of Texas at Austin

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