International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 409–431 | Cite as

Infanticide in Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni in the Kakamega Forest, Kenya: Variation in the Occurrence of an Adaptive Behavior

  • Marina CordsEmail author
  • James L. Fuller


Infanticide by males is widespread across mammals and especially prevalent among primates. Considerable research has examined how fitness benefits can explain the occurrence of this behavior; less is known, however, about intrapopulation variation in its occurrence. We evaluated 10 infanticides by males in wild blue monkeys according to the sexual selection hypothesis. To explore intrapopulation variation in occurrence of infanticide, we compared these cases to 38 cases that were contextually similar but in which infanticide did not occur. We examined male reproductive benefit, infant age, maternal parity, postconception estrus, group defense, available mating partners, and context of takeover. We based comparisons on daily or near daily records of male presence in the study groups, infant birth dates, and male-female sexual interactions. Infanticides followed predictions of the sexual selection hypothesis: males were unlikely to kill their own offspring, the period for the mother’s return to conception was reduced by half, and males increased their chance of siring her next offspring. Difference in male reproductive benefit, costs, and motivation did not fully explain the observed variation in infanticide occurrence. Infants were more likely to be spared if they were older when a male first arrived, or if their mother had mated with the male in the second month after conception. The most important determinant of infant fate, however, was male identity, a finding consistent with 2 scenarios: 1) an infanticidal tendency may be influenced by a genetic polymorphism that is not fixed in this population or 2) infanticidal behavior may be a conditional male strategy. Further research on intrapopulation variation in infanticidal behavior should focus especially on characteristics of males.


cannibalism female counterstrategy infanticide male takeover postconception estrus 



We thank the Ministry of Science, Education and Technology, Government of Kenya, for permission to work in the Kakamega Forest, the University of Nairobi Zoology Department, Institute for Primate Research (National Museum of Kenya), Moi University Department of Wildlife Management and Masinde Muliro University Department of Biological Sciences for local sponsorship, and local Forest Department (now Forest Service) staff for cooperation at the field site. Long-term funding for this study was provided by Columbia University, the L. S. B. Leakey Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, AAAS, and the National Science Foundation (especially BCS 9808273, BCS 0554747). Many Kenyan and American field assistants contributed to collection of longitudinal data; we especially thank P. Akelo, M. Atamba, S. Brace, N. Cohen, S. Förster, A. Fulghum, J. Kirika, S. Maisonneuve, C. Makalasia, K. McLean, C. Mitchell, N. Mitchell, S. Mugatha, C. Oduor, C. Okoyo, J. Omondi, B. Pav, A. Piel, S. Roberts, M. Sheehan, E. Shikanga, B. Shimenga, and E. Widava. We thank the editor, 2 anonymous reviewers, and S. Förster for comments on the manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental BiologyColumbia University New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.New York Consortium in Evolutionary PrimatologyNew YorkUSA

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