Canadians too. Apparently only the european beaver knows how to make a marriage work.
European beavers are truly monogamous, but the same cannot be said of their North American counterparts
Most animals aren’t the marrying kind. Less than five percent are believed to pair together for life, and even if they do stay together they do plenty of cheating. But not European beavers. Not only do they pair up for life, a new genetic analysis shows that they are faithful to each other.
A team led by Pavel Munclinger from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic took samples from several European beaver colonies living in the Kirov region of Russia. They then analysed the genetic relationships among family groups.
In every colony, all the offspring belonged to both of the parents. None of them had been fathered by males from elsewhere.
The same cannot be said for their American counterparts. North American beavers are known to mate with beavers other than their bonded partners.
They cheat a lot. In 2008, researchers discovered that the “father” of a pair of young was unrelated to at least one of them about half of the time.
I knew all this monogamy business was a smokescreen! How many times have I been watching our beavers and seen mom bat her come-hither eyes at the nearest woody offering! (There’s a reason the word beaver has another meaning ya know…) We read this particular research they’re referring too back in 2008 in preparation for our historic prevalence paper. The authors referred to it as “opportunistic monogomy” and Rickipedia quipped that the term describes most males of the human species too. Ha.
Cheating does have its advantages. If a mother mates with a healthier male than her main partner, she can pass better genes onto her young.
But there are also advantages to staying loyal. “Genetic monogamy lowers the risk of parasite transmission,” says Munclinger.
”It also lowers the risk of partner desertion, which is very important in species with extensive parental care of both sexes.”
Staying faithful seems to serve the European beavers well. Their populations have been climbing in areas of the UK where they have been reintroduced.
It’s good that this news is being lauded in the British Press. They need another reason to like beavers and being told ‘theirs are better’ is a great way to convince the holdouts. In a more sober consideration you have to wonder whether population density matters. And whether having very little competition affects how faithful beavers chose to be. Most of Europe is as crammed with beaver as it is with people now and those beavers don’t cheat apparently. Our population is decimated and our beavers mate with anything they can get. Maybe the facts are related. Didn’t a pair from the (no beavers for 500 years) Scottish beaver trial hook up with other beavers?
We American beaver-lovers will just continue being content with their slutty ways until the population gets fuller, I guess.
And in case you need more praises sung for beavers, here’s a fun reminder from Fairbanks Alaska
If you only think of rodents as pests, you are missing out. One reason these animals are misunderstood is because there are so many of them. More, in fact, than any other kind of mammal, but they play an important role in the ecosystem.“
Some of these rodents are referred to by ecologists as indicator species,” Nations says, “because they indicate the health of an ecosystem.”
Another example is the role that beavers play in creating wetlands that are used by many bird species. Beaver ponds also can be convenient places to spot moose and muskrats are known to take up residence in beaver lodges, as well.
Theresa Baker ends the nice article by suggesting kids build a ‘rodent collection’ in their home, you know a clay porcupine with toothpick spines etc. Good idea, and I would definitely include one of these: