Q&A

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents - Sarah McPher­son

Which mam­mals are most likely to kill their own?

As part of a study into the evo­lu­tion­ary de­vel­op­ment of lethal vi­o­lence in hu­mans, sci­en­tists at the Con­sejo Su­pe­rior de In­ves­ti­ga­ciones Cien­tí­fi­cas and Uni­ver­si­ties of Granada and Rey Juan Car­los in Spain ex­am­ined the rate of con­spe­cific killings across 1,024 mam­mal species. Ter­ri­to­rial and so­cial mam­mals, such as meerkats, li­ons, wolves, many pri­mates and some sealions, topped the re­sults ta­ble; soli­tary and non-ter­ri­to­rial species - bats, whales or mar­su­pi­als - came closer to the bot­tom.

So where did we hu­mans come in? “Our study pro­vided ref­er­ence values that en­able us to com­pare con­specifc vi­o­lence across species groups – in­clud­ing hu­mans,” says lead sci­en­tist José María Gómez Reyes. “Com­pared to the av­er­age level of lethal vi­o­lence across all the mam­mals in the study (0.3 per cent), pri­mates are more vi­o­lent (2.3 per cent). Com­pared to the av­er­age pri­mate, hu­mans are not par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent. Com­pared to prim­i­tive hu­mans (2 per cent), mod­ern hu­man so­ci­eties have lower lev­els of lethal vi­o­lence.”

MeerkatsM are known tot kill their own kind.k In­fan­ti­cide, for in­stance,i is com­mon.

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