The evolution of food sharing in primates
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- Jaeggi, A.V. & Van Schaik, C.P. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2011) 65: 2125. doi:10.1007/s00265-011-1221-3
The aim of this study is to explain the occurrence of food sharing across primates. Defined as the unresisted transfer of food, evolutionary hypotheses have to explain why possessors should relinquish food rather than keep it. While sharing with offspring can be explained by kin selection, explanations for sharing among unrelated adults are more controversial. Here we test the hypothesis that sharing occurs with social partners that have leverage over food possessors due to the opportunity for partner choice in other contexts. Thus, we predict that possessors should relinquish food to potential mates or allies, who could provide or withhold matings or coalitionary support in the future. We used phylogenetic analyses based on both maximum likelihood and Bayesian approaches in a sample of 68 primate species to test these predictions. The analyses strongly indicate that (1) sharing with offspring is predicted by the relative processing difficulty of the diet, as measured by the degree of extractive foraging, but not overall diet quality, (2) food sharing among adults only evolved in species already sharing with offspring, regardless of diet, and (3) male–female sharing co-evolved with the opportunity for female mate choice and sharing within the sexes with coalition formation. These results provide comparative support for the hypothesis that sharing is “traded” for matings and coalitionary support in the sense that these services are statistically associated and can thus be selected for. Based on this, we predict that sharing should occur in any species with opportunities for partner choice.