Sex bias in intergroup conflict and collective movements among social mammals: Male warriors and female guides

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Intergroup conflict is a major evolutionary force shaping animal and human societies. Males and females should, on average, experience different costs and benefits for participating in collective action. Specifically, among mammals, male fitness is generally limited by access to mates whereas females are limited by access to food and safety. Here we analyse sex biases among 72 species of group-living mammals in two contexts: intergroup conflict and collective movements. Our comparative phylogenetic analyses show that the modal mammalian pattern is male-biased participation in intergroup conflict and female-biased leadership in collective movements. However, the probability of male-biased participation in intergroup conflicts decreased and female-biased participation increased with female-biased leadership in movements. Thus, female-biased participation in intergroup conflict only emerged in species with female-biased leadership in collective movements, such as in spotted hyenas and some lemurs. Sex differences are probably attributable to costs and benefits of participating in collective movements (e.g.Towards food, water, safety) and intergroup conflict (e.g. access to mates or resources, risk of injury). Our comparative review offers new insights into the factors shaping sex bias in leadership across social mammals and is consistent with the male warrior hypothesis which posits evolved sex differences in human intergroup psychology.




Smith, J. E., Fichtel, C., Holmes, R. K., Kappeler, P. M., Vugt, M. V., & Jaeggi, A. V. (2022). Sex bias in intergroup conflict and collective movements among social mammals: Male warriors and female guides. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 377(1851).

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