Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Changes in Male Hunting Returns. In Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Shackelford, T, and V. Weekes-Shackelford, eds. Springer International.


Research on changes in male hunting among hunter-gatherers addresses two important issues in early human evolution: the nature of the family and trade-offs in mating and parenting effort as well as the development of embodied capital. In the hunter-gatherer literature, there is a debate about the function of male hunting that has implications for understanding the role males play in the evolution of the pair bond. The traditional model argues that male hunting and other economic activities are forms of male provisioning or parenting effort designed to enhance a man’s fitness through his wife’s reproduction and the survivorship of their common children. Thus, it is a component of the traditional division of labor and a foundation for marriage and family. The costly signaling hypothesis (or, “show off”) is an alternative to the provisioning model. It is proposed by Hawkes and colleagues who argue that men often seek large and difficult-to-acquire game animals that they widely distribute to camp members. As such, it represents mating effort by demonstrating a hunter’s phenotypic quality as a potential mate and/or ally. A number of studies have been published to test the provisioning and signaling hypotheses by examining changes in male hunting returns.