Showing off: Tests of a hypothesis about men's foraging goals
It is widely assumed that among hunter-gatherers, men work to provision their families. However, men may have more to gain by giving food to a wide range of companions who treat them favorably in return. If so, and if some resources better serve this end, men's foraging behavior should vary accordingly. Aspects of this hypothesis are tested on observations of food acquisition and sharing among Ache foragers of Eastern Paraguay. Previous analysis showed that different Ache food types were differently shared. Resources shared most widely were game animals. Further analysis and additional data presented here suggest a causal association between the wide sharing of game and the fact that men hunt and women do not. Data show that men preferentially target resources in both hunting and gathering which are more widely shared, resources more likely to be consumed outside their own nuclear families. These results have implications for 1) the identification of male reproductive trade-offs in human societies, 2) the view that families are units of common interest integrated by the sexual division of labor, 3) current reconstructions of the evolution of foraging and food sharing among early hominids, and 4) assessments of the role of risk and reciprocity in hunter-gatherer foraging strategies.