Interhousehold Meat Sharing among Mayangna and Miskito Horticulturalists in Nicaragua
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Recent analyses of food sharing in small-scale societies indicate that reciprocal altruism maintains interhousehold food transfers, even among close kin. In this study, matrix-based regression methods are used to test the explanatory power of reciprocal altruism, kin selection, and tolerated scrounging. In a network of 35 households in Nicaragua’s Bosawas Reserve, the significant predictors of food sharing include kinship, interhousehold distance, and reciprocity. In particular, resources tend to flow from households with relatively more meat to closely related households with little, as predicted by kin selection. This generalization is especially true of household dyads with mother-offspring relationships, which suggests that studies of food sharing may benefit from distinctions between lineal and collateral kin. Overall, this analysis suggests that exchanges among kin are primarily associated with differences in need, not reciprocity. Finally, although large game is distributed widely, qualitative observations indicate that hunters typically do not relinquish control of the distribution in ways predicted by costly signaling theory.