In the animal kingdom, what does it mean to be promiscuous? | Science News

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In the animal kingdom, what does it mean to be promiscuous?

There’s little consensus over the use of the word in scientific studies, an analysis shows

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7:00am, August 13, 2018
greater prairie chicken

WHO ME?  Bird scientists consider species like the greater prairie chicken to be promiscuous because the birds have no relationship with their sexual partners beyond copulation.

MILWAUKEE — When it comes to the sex lives of animals, scientists have a slate of explicit terms to describe the proclivities of species. But researchers may be playing a little fast and loose with one of those words. Just what sort of activity qualifies an animal as promiscuous?

A review of almost 350 studies published in scientific journals in 2015 and 2016 found that the label was being applied to a surprisingly wide range of mating behaviors in animals, including humans. “This idea of promiscuity seems to mean different things to different people,” says Sarah Jane Alger, a behavioral neurobiologist at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.

Promiscuity was referenced in about half of the studies, says Alger, a coauthor on the study presented August 3 at the annual

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