Table 1 with all data used in the comparative analyses from The evolution of infanticide by females in mammals
2019-05-30T09:10:57Z (GMT) by
In most mammalian species, females regularly interact with kin, which is expected to reduce aggressive competitive behaviour among females. It may thus be difficult to understand why infanticide by females has been reported in numerous species and is sometimes perpetrated by groupmates. Here, we investigate the evolutionary determinants of infanticide by females by combining a quantitative analysis of the taxonomic distribution of infanticide with a qualitative synthesis of the circumstances of infanticidal attacks in published reports. Our results show that female infanticide is widespread across mammals and varies in relation to social organization and life history, being more frequent where females breed in groups and have intense bouts of high reproductive output. Specifically, female infanticide occurs where the proximity of conspecific offspring directly threatens the killer's reproductive success by limiting access to critical resources for her dependent progeny, including food, shelters, care or a social position. By contrast, infanticide is not immediately modulated by the degree of kinship among females, and females occasionally sacrifice closely related infants. Our findings suggest that the potential direct fitness rewards of gaining access to reproductive resources have a stronger influence on the expression of female aggression than the indirect fitness costs of competing against kin.This article is part of the theme issue ‘The evolution of female-biased kinship in humans and other mammals’.