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An attempted within-group infanticide in wild chimpanzees

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Two high-ranking adult male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) of M group in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania, tried to get a newborn female infant of an adult female who was born in M group. The mother was not seen to mate with these adult males during the probable conception cycle of the infant, but she disappeared from the group during the later cycle, when she may have been inseminated by a male of one of the neighboring unit groups. The adult males failed to get the infant because the grandmother of the newborn and her female friend cooperated to protect the mother and infant from attacks by the males. The sexual selection hypothesis for infanticide by adult male chimpanzees holds for this observed case. The sudden disappearance of another infant, a healthy female, strongly suggests the killing of female infants too. Therefore, the asserted male-biased infanticide in chimpanzees appears to be less tenable.

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Sakamaki, T., Itoh, N. & Nishida, T. An attempted within-group infanticide in wild chimpanzees. Primates 42, 359–366 (2001).

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