By Bo Gräslund
Summarizing glossy learn on early hominid evolution from the apes six million years in the past to the emergence of recent people, this publication is the 1st to offer a man-made dialogue of many elements of early human lifestyles.
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Among mammals and birds this imprinting is individual, while among social insects and naked mole rats it is collective and functions through a uniform scent in the nest. In the latter case this creates blocks against sex and in favour of positive relations within the nest that is usually characterised by a high degree of internal kinship. The influence is nevertheless just as strong regardless of kinship. Blocks against sex within the collective force mating females to leave the nest in order to pair with males who possess a different scent – a temporary exogamy.
However, this does not mean that he ‘understands’ 27 THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN SOCIAL LIFE that he is not the father. There is nothing to suggest that primates or other mammals even instinctively understand the connection between copulation and childbirth. The only thing the male realises is that the suckling infant makes it impossible for him to have sex with its mother. Nor does the fact that he does not kill his own offspring when they eventually arrive mean that he ‘understands’ that he has become a father.
Now this interpretation is more and more being called into question. Following critical surveys of research in this field and new field studies, it seems more likely that there are more advantages than disadvantages in giving warning cries, and that this behaviour is, shortsightedly, simply selfish. My own opinion is that the immediate mechanism behind warning cries in group-living animals is a combination of influence through early close contact and parental instincts. The overarching evolutionary mechanism is not then genetic selection for warning biological kin, but for warning those to whom the animal has been positively bonded through early close contact, and which are frequently also its relatives.