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Dieter Lukas and Elise Huchard have now looked into infanticide by female mammals. In previous studies, males have been found to kill when females will not mate with them if they are still caring for an offspring sired by their previous partner. "Across mammals, females are more likely to commit infanticide when conditions are harsh and when having offspring is particularly costly to females," says Huchard. "The potential triggers and likely benefits of infanticide however appear to differ according to the specific circumstances."
The researchers found that when females are territorial and need access to breeding space or burrows, infanticide can cause neighbouring females to leave so that killers may expand their territory. When females come together on breeding grounds, females might commit infanticide to prevent other offspring from stealing their milk. When females live in groups with others who care for offspring that are not their own, infanticide increases the help that their own surviving offspring receive. And when females live in stable social groups, infanticide can...
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