This may not be the best of news but a new study has found that 119 mammals out of the 260 species understudied commit infanticide – the killing of babies or infants – as a survival strategy. This was made known by a zoologist, Dieter Luxas of the University of Cambridge, and a behavioral ecologist, Elise Huchard from the French National Centre for Scientific Research.
According to Huchard, “infanticide is probably the most extreme manifestation of sexual conflict in mammals, with a major fitness cost for mothers who lose their offspring, in which they have already invested lots of energy.”
The researchers had set out to investigate if mammals with all their known affections for babies still engage in infanticides, why they do so, and the consequences of these acts.
The scientists were able to study 260 mammal species and then found out that 119 of them engage in infanticides; but they also observed 114 mammal species that do not practice this behavior. However, they were only able to record actual animal acts and practices that involved baby-killing. But while trying to establish social structure and mating behavioral patterns to determine factors, they found that in situations where there is no dominating males within the habitat, male mammals tend to commit more infanticide where males and females cohabit together.
Another advisor who is not involved with the study explains that “selection for larger testicles…is a male counter-strategy to that female counter-strategy, which gives you an idea of how dynamic and complicated evolution of reproductive strategies can be. We cannot understand what one sex is doing without also taking into account what has been going on in the other.”
Monogamy, the writer pointed out, is one of the strategies adopted by females to prevent the killing of their infants by aggressive males. While males practice infanticides more under certain circumstances, it must be noted that female mammals also carry out infanticides given other conditions.