One mammal kills more of its own species than any other

Posted Oct 2, 2016 by Tim Sandle
A new survey has revealed the most murderous mammals, in terms of killing the most number of its own species. Guess what is top of the list? Surprisingly it is not the human, the bear or the wolf.
Scenes in Bioparc Fuengirola - Meerkat (suricat).
Scenes in Bioparc Fuengirola - Meerkat (suricat).
The aim of the the new study is to examine the rates of lethal violence across a thousand species, with the aim of trying to understand better the evolutionary origins of humanity’s own inhumanity. Just why does one species compete with its own kind and try to kill others, whereas another species seems to live relatively peacefully and engage in cooperative behavior? Is this to do with external pressure, such as habitat loss or scarcity of food, or due to innate behaviors?
To try and assess different behaviors and relate this, in someway, back to people, José María Gómez and fellow researchers from the University of Granada, have spent thousands of hours studying and record real-time animal behavior, as well as studying archival footage.
Surprisingly, at the top of the list — for the species most likely to kill one of its own — is the meerkat. The black-masked creatures may look endearing, but they kill each other at a rate of around one in five. With this death rate, it is mostly youngsters who are killed and most deaths come about through fighting.
The overall list is surprising, The Atlantic reports in its summary of the research. In the top 50 are such 'cute looking' animals as ground squirrels, wild horses, gazelle, and deer. Even cuddly chinchillas kill each other more often than bears and tigers.
While many species appear on the list prepared by the researchers, the overall assessment is that lethal violence aimed at others from the same species is rare but widespread. Of the 1,024 mammal species surveyed, intra-species murder occurs in around 40 percent. Species that rarely kill each other include bats, rabbits and whales. The types that kill most often tend to be primates (humans, apes, monkeys, and lemurs). Quite how this all fits in terms of evolutionary development requires further analysis.
The research is published in the journal Nature, in a paper titled "The phylogenetic roots of human lethal violence."