Mothers teach daughters because daughters teach granddaughters: the evolution of sex-biased transmission

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid


Cultural transmission in nonhuman animals is often sex biased, with females more frequently or efficiently learning cultural behaviors than males. The evolutionary origins of sex-biased cultural transmission have been a mystery, though it has been proposed that female offspring may gain greater reproductive benefit from cultural traits than sons—the “disparate benefits” hypothesis. I propose a different, “uniparental teaching,” hypothesis where sex-biased transmission evolves in uniparental species if mothers teach, that is, invest in their offsprings’ learning. I show, with theoretical models, that mothers evolve to invest more in teaching daughters than sons because teaching daughters results in greater inclusive fitness benefits. Teaching a son gives him a reproductive benefit for one generation. However, I show that because daughters may teach future generations, teaching a daughter can be a better long-term investment. I also model the disparate benefits hypothesis and show that the uniparental teaching hypothesis better fits the empirical patterns of sex-biased transmission in the well-studied example of “sponging” in bottlenose dolphins. Uniparental teaching may also explain sex-biased transmission in other species, including chimpanzees. My findings suggest that controversial mechanisms of cultural transmission in nonhumans, such as teaching, may be inferred from population-level patterns of transmission even when it is difficult to observe transmission directly in the field or laboratory.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles