Ross, C. T.,Strimling, P.,Ericksen, K. P.,Lindenfors, P.,Mulder, M. B.

We present formal evolutionary models for the origins and persistence of the practice of Female Genital Modification (FGMo). We then test the implications of these models using normative cross-cultural data on FGMo in Africa and Bayesian phylogenetic methods that explicitly model adaptive evolution. Empirical evidence provides some support for the findings of our evolutionary models that the de novo origins of the FGMo practice should be associated with social stratification, and that social stratification should place selective pressures on the adoption of FGMo; these results, however, are tempered by the finding that FGMo has arisen in many cultures that have no social stratification, and that forces operating orthogonally to stratification appear to play a more important role in the cross-cultural distribution of FGMo. To explain these cases, one must consider cultural evolutionary explanations in conjunction with behavioral ecological ones. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our study for policies designed to end the practice of FGMo.