Food sharing is a costly form of cooperation that was likely critical to human evolutionary success, including the emergence of human's life history strategy. Food sharing in human communities may be maintained through a number of pathways, including direct dyadic reciprocity, reputation‐based processes, and kin‐biased exchange. Differences in reproductive demands, labor, and cultural norms may also result in gendered differences in cooperative networks. Here, we examine cooperative networks in egalitarian BaYaka foragers from the Congo Basin.
We collected social network data from 112 adults in 41 households in this subsistence community. We implement a Bayesian latent network model to assess individual‐, dyadic‐, and block‐level predictors of food sharing partners.
Conditioning on covariates, we found limited evidence for direct dyadic reciprocity in food sharing. Despite local norms regarding prestige avoidance, we found status‐based homophily. High‐status individuals—council members and local healers—were more likely to share with one another. Importantly, our results highlight gender differences in patterns of food sharing, interacting with genetic relatedness. Women were more likely to share with one another, especially with kin as genetic relatedness increased.
Our results align with evolutionary framing emphasizing kin selection in costly cooperation. The results showing that women cooperate with other women, particularly kin, also complement sex‐based patterns in some other mammalian species, potentially reflecting the social support necessary to manage reproductive costs and childcare. BaYaka women's subsistence productivity and local cultural dynamics for autonomy and egalitarianism may likewise help facilitate women's preferential cooperation with one another.