Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Stevens, J.R. and Gilby, I.C. (2004). A conceptual framework for non-kin food sharing: Timing and currency of benefits. Animal Behaviour, 67, 603-614.


Many animal species, from arthropods to apes, share food. This paper presents a new framework that categorizes nonkin food sharing according to two axes: (1) the interval between sharing and receiving the benefits of sharing, and (2) the currency units in which benefits accrue to the sharer (especially food versus nonfood). Sharers can obtain immediate benefits from increased foraging efficiency, predation avoidance, mate provisioning, or manipulative mutualism. Reciprocity, trade, status enhancement and group augmentation can delay benefits. When benefits are delayed or when food is exchanged for nonfood benefits, maintaining sharing can become more difficult because animals face discounting and currency conversion problems. Explanations that involve delayed or nonfood benefits may require specialized adaptations to account for timing and currency-exchange problems. The immediate, selfish fitness benefits that a sharer may gain through by-product or manipulative mutualism, however, apply to various food-sharing situations across many species and may provide a simpler, more general explanation of sharing.