In an online chat Thursday on the ScienceNOW Web site of the journal Science, researchers Kelly Lambert and Karen Bales talked about their research into those good animal fathers, which include prairie voles, California deer mice, titi monkeys and marmosets, the siamang ape and wolves.
Almost all of those species are monogamous and that might be where the paternal change starts, said Bales, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis and the unit leader for Brain, Mind, and Behavior at the California National Primate Research Center.
Two important chemicals involved in bonding with a mate -- called oxytocin and vasopressin -- are also involved in the parental response, she
"This is probably not an accident; they are ancient peptides that seem to have been co-opted for many social functions," Bales said.
"It is probable that the changes in the brain that occur with pair-bonding help to 'set up' the brain for being a dad, and perhaps vice versa.
I wouldn't say that there are any non-monogamous mammals that score really high in paternal contributions."
There are genetic differences in humans in terms of response to those chemicals and one study found the variation in the ability to respond to vasopressin predicted marital quality of life, Bales