Intra-community infanticide in wild, eastern chimpanzees: a 24 year review

Adriana E. Lowe, Catherine Hobaiter, Caroline Asiimwe, Klaus Zuberbuhler, Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Infanticide is well documented in chimpanzees and various hypotheses have been proposed to explain this behaviour. However, since infanticide by chimpanzees is relatively rare, it has thus far not been possible to thoroughly test these hypotheses. Here we present an analysis of the largest dataset of infanticides from a single community of chimpanzees, a full record of all intra-community infanticides and failed attempts at infanticide over a 24-year period for the Sonso community of chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest, Uganda. We use these data to test four hypotheses for this behaviour: sexual selection, resource competition, meat acquisition and male mating competition. There were 33 attacks on 30 victims, 11 of which were ‘definite’ infanticides, four of which ‘almost certain’, and nine were ‘suspected’, while nine were ‘attempted’ infanticides. The majority of attacks where the perpetrators were known (23) had only male attackers and victims were disproportionally young (2/3 of victims with known ages were under one week old). Our data best support the sexual selection hypothesis for infanticide. Cannibalism was infrequent and partial, suggesting meat acquisition was a by-product of infanticide, and there was no evidence to suggest that infanticide was part of a male strategy to eliminate future competitors. Infanticide by females was rare, but we suggest sexual selection, operating through intra-sexual competition, may also be responsible for infanticide by females.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
VolumeFirst Online
Early online date27 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 May 2019


  • Infanticide
  • Aggression
  • Sexual selection
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Budongo


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