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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25001. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025001. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Sexually selected infanticide in a polygynous bat.

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Institute of Experimental Ecology, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.



Adult individuals of many species kill unrelated conspecific infants for several adaptive reasons ranging from predation or resource competition to the prevention of misdirected parental care. Moreover, infanticide can increase the reproductive success of the aggressor by killing the offspring of competitors and thereafter mating with the victimized females. This sexually selected infanticide predominantly occurs in polygynous species, with convincing evidence for primates, carnivores, equids, and rodents. Evidence for bats was predicted but lacking.


Here we report the first case, to our knowledge, of sexually selected infanticide in a bat, the polygynous white-throated round-eared bat, Lophostoma silvicolum. Behavioral studies in a free-living population revealed that an adult male repeatedly attacked and injured the pups of two females belonging to his harem, ultimately causing the death of one pup. The infanticidal male subsequently mated with the mother of the victimized pup and this copulation occurred earlier than any other in his harem.


Our findings indicate that sexually selected infanticide is more widespread than previously thought, adding bats as a new taxon performing this strategy. Future work on other bats, especially polygynous species in the tropics, has great potential to investigate the selective pressures influencing the evolution of sexually selected infanticide and to study how infanticide impacts reproductive strategies and social structures of different species.

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