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n. (context chiefly ornithology English) The killing of a sibling.


Siblicide (attributed by behavioural ecologist Doug Mock to Barbara M. Braun) is the killing of an infant individual by its close relatives (full or half siblings). It may occur directly between siblings or be mediated by the parents. The evolutionary drivers may be either indirect benefits for the genetic viability of a population or direct benefits for the perpetrators. Siblicide has mainly, but not only, been observed in birds.

The word is also used as a unifying term for fratricide and sororicide in the human species; unlike these more specific terms, it leaves the sex of the victim unspecified.

Siblicidal behavior can be either obligate or facultative. Obligate siblicide is when a sibling almost always ends up being killed. Facultative siblicide means that siblicide may or may not occur, based on environmental conditions. In birds, obligate siblicidal behavior results in the older chick killing the other chick(s). In facultative siblicidal animals, fighting is frequent, but does not always lead to death of a sibling; this type of behavior often exists in patterns for different species. For instance, in the blue-footed booby, a sibling may be hit by a nest mate only once a day for a couple of weeks and then attacked at random, leading to its death. More birds are facultatively siblicidal than obligatory siblicidal. This is perhaps because siblicide takes a great amount of energy and is not always advantageous.

Siblicide generally only occurs when resources, specifically food sources, are scarce. Siblicide is advantageous for the surviving offspring because they have now eliminated most or all of their competition. It is also somewhat advantageous for the parents because the surviving offspring most likely have the strongest genes, and so, will pass these genes onto their offspring later in life, creating a strong line of genetics.

Some parents encourage siblicide, while others prevent it. If resources are scarce, the parents may encourage siblicide because only some offspring will survive anyway, so they want the strongest offspring to survive. By letting the offspring kill each other, it saves the parents time and energy that would be wasted on feeding offspring that most likely would not survive anyway.

Parent–offspring conflict is a theory which states that offspring can take actions to advance their own fitness while decreasing the fitness of their parents and that parents can increase their own fitness while simultaneously decreasing the fitness of their offspring. This is one of the driving forces of siblicide because it increases the fitness of the offspring by decreasing the amount of competition they have. Parents may either discourage or accept siblicide depending on whether it increases the probability of their offspring surviving to reproduce.

Inclusive fitness is defined as an animal's individual reproductive success, plus the positive and/or negative effects that animal has on its sibling's reproductive success, multiplied by the animal's degree of kinship. In instances of siblicide, the victim is usually the youngest sibling. This sibling's reproductive value can be measured by how much it enhances or detracts from the success of other siblings, therefore this individual is considered to be marginal. The marginal sibling can act as an additional element of parental success if it, as well as its siblings, survive. If an older sibling happens to die unexpectedly, the marginal sibling is there to take its place; this acts as insurance against the death of another sibling, which depends on the likelihood of the older sibling dying.

Usage examples of "siblicide".

In the animal world as in the human world, such conflicts not infrequently lead to infanticide, parricide (the murder of parents by an offspring), and siblicide (the murder of one sibling by another).