Anthropology

The evolutionary benefits of warfare

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Science  23 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6220, pp. 385-386
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6220.385-c

Livestock, such as cattle, cause strife among the Nyangatom people of East Africa

PHOTO: RANDY OLSON/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

Many human societies engage in warfare, but given the mortal risks involved, many evolutionary anthropologists have wondered why. Is there an evolutionary benefit to warfare? Glowacki and Wrangham tackled this question by studying the Nyangatom, a nomadic society in East Africa. Nyangatom men carry out livestock raids to pay for the right to marry. Men who were active cattle raiders had more wives and children than men who were not. But they had to wait for this benefit. Young raiders give stolen livestock as gifts to paternal relatives. They only benefitted later in life by inheriting the larger herds they helped to build.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1412287112 (2014).

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