You may have heard of the naked mole rat, a weird little beast that can eat a lot of worms really fast. Naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber) live in colonies with a single breeding queen, much like bees do. Many of the non-breeding individuals care cooperatively for the young.
According to Lisa Conti in Miller-McCune, Nancy Forger of the University of Massachusetts found that there were lots of oxytocin receptors in the rats' nucleus accumbens, which is considered the pleasure center in mammals -- including humans.
Researchers think that this distribution contributes to social monogamy (as opposed to strict sexual monogamy), for example, in the famously monogamous prairie voles. The idea is, the pleasure of sex is tied to the individual mate, creating a bond and a state in the brain that looks very similar to addiction.
So, if the mole rats are equally bonded to the group, it seems like this could illuminate the basis of a similar bond in a polyamorous family.
photo: Riude (Juhan Ristolainen)