Reports

Infanticide in Prairie Dogs: Lactating Females Kill Offspring of Close Kin

Science  29 Nov 1985:
Vol. 230, Issue 4729, pp. 1037-1040
DOI: 10.1126/science.230.4729.1037

Abstract

Infanticide, although common in a wide range of species including humans and other primates, is poorly understood. A 7-year study under natural conditions reveals that infanticide within colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) is striking for three reasons. It is the major source of juvenile mortality, accounting for the total or partial demise of 51 percent of all litters born. The most common killers are resident lactating females. The most common victims are the offspring of close kin.

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