Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Meerkats' sinister side is secret to their success, study shows

Date:
July 22, 2014
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
The darker side of meerkats -- which sees them prevent their daughters from breeding, and kill their grandchildren -- is explained in a new study. Research into the desert creatures -- which live in groups with a dominant breeding pair and many adult helpers -- shows that the alpha female can flourish when it maintains the sole right to breed. The study shows how this way of life, also found in many animals such as ants and bees, can prove effective despite its sinister side.

The darker side of meerkats -- which sees them prevent their daughters from breeding, and kill their grandchildren -- is explained in a new study.

Related Articles


Research into the desert creatures -- which live in groups with a dominant breeding pair and many adult helpers -- shows that the alpha female can flourish when it maintains the sole right to breed.

The study shows how this way of life, also found in many animals such as ants and bees, can prove effective despite its sinister side.

Dominant meerkats control breeding within their group through violence, by banishing any other females who reproduce, killing their offspring, to ensure plentiful resources for the alpha pair's pups.

Scientists studied the impact of giving contraceptive jabs to adult female helpers in 12 groups of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert, to ensure that they could not reproduce for six months.

During this time, dominant females were less aggressive towards helpers and foraged more, gaining more weight and having bigger pups. The female helper meerkats experienced less violence than usual from the alpha female, and provided more care and food for the pups.

The study, published in Nature Communications, was carried out by the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Exeter and Pretoria with the Kalahari Meerkat Project in South Africa. It was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Dr Matthew Bell of the University of Edinburgh, School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: "The meerkat way of life is a paradox, in which alpha females will attack their daughters, banish them from the group and infanticise their offspring.

"Our study reveals that dominant animals are worse off when subordinates in their group try to breed -- explaining why they brutally suppress others much of the time. We expected this result, but its impact exceeded our expectations."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "Meerkats' sinister side is secret to their success, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722102358.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2014, July 22). Meerkats' sinister side is secret to their success, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722102358.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Meerkats' sinister side is secret to their success, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722102358.htm (accessed March 2, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, March 2, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

500 Snakes Surprise Construction Workers In Canada

500 Snakes Surprise Construction Workers In Canada

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Hundreds of snakes, disturbed by a construction project, were relocated to a wildlife rescue association in Canada. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) If a doctor advises you to remove gluten from your diet, you could get a tax deduction on the amount you spend on gluten-free foods. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Zookeepers Copy Animal Poses In Hilarious Viral Photos

Zookeepers Copy Animal Poses In Hilarious Viral Photos

Buzz60 (Mar. 2, 2015) Zookeepers at the Symbio Wildlife Park in Helensburgh, Australia decided to take some of their favorite animal photos and recreate them by posing just like the animals. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heavy Toll as Australian Farmers Struggle Through Drought

Heavy Toll as Australian Farmers Struggle Through Drought

AFP (Mar. 2, 2015) Mounting debts, despair and forced repossessions are taking a heavy toll on farmers in parts of Australia suffering from its worst drought in 100 years. Duration: 02:16 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins