Essay: Infanticide in primates

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  • Subject area(s): Zoology essays
  • Reading time: 3 minutes
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  • Published on: May 2, 2018
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  • Infanticide in primates
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Many of the behaviors observed in primates are known to have evolutionary causes. Infanticide is one that has been questioned whether to be caused by an evolutionary purpose or pathological behaviors. Infanticide has been observed in the wild amongst primates as a situation where new males join a new group and begin to kill off infants that continue to be dependent on their mothers for food. This is thought to be either caused by stressful environments or a reproductive tactic. There has been enough evidence observed to prove that infanticide is executed for reproductive benefits for males entering a new group of many females with children of their own.
 
The purpose of these primates committing this act is to eventually have their own children. This can only be made possible if the females are able to reproduce which they cannot if they are still providing nutrition to their babies. By killing the children these dominant males are able to get these women to become estrus. As mentioned in the text of “Sexually Selected Infanticide in a Polygynous Bat” a female’s ability to adapt her reproductive cycle according to her environment and situation is a crucial factor in the circumstances where infanticide is present. Primates fall under this category and that is why it is believed that so many cases of this type of event are observed. These primates seek easy and fast ways to produce offspring. This is made simple by killing off the infants allowing women to be more open to conceive sooner.

On the other hand, many people believe that there is not sufficient evidence for this to be confirmed. As stated in “Infant Killing in Primates,” Primates have not physically been observed committing these acts. Instead, it has only been inferred. (984) This shows that there has not been enough information collected to come to a strong conclusion of the correlation between sexual selection and the occurrences of infanticide. The article looks to question the idea that these primates solely kill infants of their groups for mating purposes. This is done by reviewing the previous observations. They continue to explain that reports of events in Sugiyama have not been completely understood. As there was no clear site of what actually took place and any injuries the primates may have received, it is left open for interpretation. (966) This means that because they are not able to accurately observe the events to their full extent, much of it is left up to assumption. This does not provide evidence that directly connects the hypothesis to the observations thus allowing people to speculate over the main cause of infanticide in primates. It is also believed that this could be caused by stressful environments. These are other possible causes that are studied to explain the cases of infanticide.

There is much more evidence directing one’s perspective towards the connection between infanticide and an evolutionary purpose. The effects killing a mother’s infant prove to be a large benefit for males attempting to reproduce. The male primates kill off the infants in order to move a mother faster into a hormonal stage that would have taken her much longer to achieve if she continued to supply nutrition to her child. The males are only looking to have children of their own and this is only possible if the female body is ready. This proves that the male has a sexual purpose to further the evolutionary process with his own genes. Whether or not he is put it in a taxing environment does not change their need to expand their path and establish their dominance.

In final analysis, it can be seen that there are many possible reasons behind the instances of infanticide. Questions are put into place in order to fully understand the nature behind the actions of these primates. Although, there may not be many fully documented and fully observed cases, the ones that have been have proven that it mainly shows a male’s need to have his own children. It is used as as a strategy to speed up the process as it changes a female’s reproductive cycle. Primates commit this act for their own benefit but in turn it has a much larger evolutionary effect.

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