Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 227–233

On the evolutionary stability of female infanticide

  • J. Tuomi
  • Jep Agrell
  • Tapio Mappes

DOI: 10.1007/s002650050337

Cite this article as:
Tuomi, J., Agrell, J. & Mappes, T. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1997) 40: 227. doi:10.1007/s002650050337


Territoriality among female rodents may have evolved as an adaptation to intraspecific competition for resources or, alternatively, to defend pups against infanticide. In order to evaluate the latter, we analyse the conditions that allow an infanticidal strategy to invade a population of non-infanticidal females, and the circumstances under which infanticide may become an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS). Our game theoretical analyses indicate that infanticide has to be associated with some direct (cannibalism) or indirect (reduced competition) resource benefits in order to invade a non-infanticidal population. We also expect that females will primarily kill litters of nearby neighbors, thereby removing the closest competitors while keeping costs at a low level. However, once established in a population, infanticide may be an ESS, even if females do not gain any resource benefits. This is theoretically possible if a female through infanticide can reduce the possibility that other, potentially infanticidal, females establish and/or stay close to her nest. While behavioral data indicate that these special circumstances sometimes occur, they may be too specific to apply generally to small rodents. Therefore, we expect that the evolutionary stability of infanticide often requires resource benefits, and that female infanticide in small rodents may, in fact, be a consequence rather than a cause of territoriality.

Key words Evolutionary stability   Female behavior  Game theory  Infanticide   Small rodents

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Tuomi
    • 1
  • Jep Agrell
    • 2
  • Tapio Mappes
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Theoretical Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, S-223 62 Lund, SwedenSE
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, S-223 62 Lund, SwedenSE
  3. 3.Department of Biological and Environmental Science, Univ of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, FIN-40351 Jyväskylä, FinlandFI