Meet the missuses - popular pygmies have multiple wives

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To investigate the driving force behind men having multiple wives when wealth isn't an issue, UK researchers studied the BaYaka Pygmies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who don't accumulate property, and live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They found men with multiple wives weren't any stronger and taller than those with just the one, but did have more kids, and were more popular.

Journal/conference: Royal Society Open Science

Organisation/s: University College London

Funder: The hunter–gatherers resilience project (Leverhulme Programme grant no. RP2011-R-045), ERC grant no. AdG 247347.

Media Release

We investigate polygynous marriage – when one man is married to multiple women simultaneously, among a Pygmy population from the Congo rainforest. This group are hunter-gatherers – they do not accumulate resources or store food. We find polygynous men have more living offspring than non-polygynous men; and they are more popular, but not significantly stronger or taller. Previous research highlights that polygyny occurs in stratified societies. Here we show that in non-stratified hunter-gatherer societies, polygyny may have been possible for popular men with large food sharing networks. Our findings have implications for the understanding of the evolution of human mating systems before agriculture.

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