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 29, 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 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

Newsy (Mar. 29, 2015) A 508-million-year-old arthropod that swam in the Cambrian seas is thought to share a common ancestor with spiders and scorpions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

AFP (Mar. 29, 2015) Vietnam&apos;s drive to become the world&apos;s leading rice exporter is pushing farmers in the fertile Mekong Delta to the brink, say experts, with mounting costs to the environment. Duration: 02:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) A lioness in Pakistan has given birth to five cubs, twice the usual size of a litter. Queen gave birth to two other cubs just nine months ago. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
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