Re: female infanticide

Mon, 5 Dec 1994 14:30:58 CST

On Mon, 5 Dec 1994 12:58:58 CST Rob Quinlan wrote:
(Lots of stuff deleted here)
>Another case comes to mind from Lee Cronk's work w/ the Mukugodo (sp?). They
>are an ex-foraging group living near cattle herding neighbors. I think the
>short version of the story goes like this: They tend to marry out of the group
>they have low status relative to their neighbors, thus it's hard for Mukugodo
>man to get a wife (males have low RS), thus the sex ratio favors females --
>partially as the result of MALE infanticide.

This is more or less right, but let me correct one thing: I have no
evidence of any sort of infanticide at all among the Mukogodo. What I
do have is evidence that Mukogodo parents treat daughters better than
sons and this seems to result in a more than normal number of early
male deaths and a female-biased sex ratio during childhood. Although
I do think this fits the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, I want to make
clear that the adaptation here is in the pattern of parental investment:
Mukogodo parents, like all parents, have limited resources to divvy
up among their kids, and they appear to be doing so with some attention
(though not conscious attention) to the reproductive prospects of
sons and daughters. But neither the increased number of male deaths
nor the female-biased childhood sex ratio should be considered "adaptations"
in any way. The dead boys are costs, not benefits, of the parental
behavior. If they somehow could rear the same number of girls to
adulthood while still not losing any boys, that would be great. But
it seems that's not possible, and in order to give their girls some
extra chances in life they have to shortchange some of their boys, and
at least some of those boys pay a high price for it. I'm pointing
this out not because Rob Quinlan is confused on this point (he's not),
but rather because I don't think I've been clear enough about it in
all of the things I've written on this topic.

I haven't been following this thread so I don't know if any of this
is relevant, but I hope it helps.


Lee Cronk
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-4352
Office: 409-847-9254
Fax: 409-845-4070