Human Nature

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 394–415 | Cite as

Interhousehold Meat Sharing among Mayangna and Miskito Horticulturalists in Nicaragua

  • Jeremy KosterEmail author


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.


Social network analysis Cooperation Food sharing Kin selection Reciprocal altruism Tolerated scrounging 



This research was supported by a Fulbright student grant, the National Science Foundation (Dissertation Improvement Award #0413037), the Hill Foundation, and a William Sanders dissertation grant. David Nolin provided helpful perspectives on the analysis, as did Mark Grote, who also assisted in the design of Fig. 2. Carmen McCane generated the matrix of interhousehold distance. Bruce Winterhalder and three anonymous reviewers offered valuable suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript. Special thanks to Jeff Johnson and Chris McCarty for their tutelage during an NSF-sponsored short course on social network analysis.

Supplementary material

12110_2011_9126_MOESM1_ESM.doc (62 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 62 kb)


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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