Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Civil war among the mongooses—and why it's all about sexual success

March 14, 2016 by Jason Gilchrist, Edinburgh Napier University, The Conversation

The banded mongoose, a small social mammal of the African savannah, is known to be one of the most cooperative and helpful of all animals.

They live across central and southern Africa in family groups of up to 28. Individuals routinely feed and protect the offspring of other group members, and when one of their own is threatened they gang up together to defend against attack from predators or a rival team of mongooses.

But life is not all friendly cuddles between team-mates. Recent research shows these animals have a dark side. In the latest study of these mongooses, published recently in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers from the University of Exeter, Liverpool John Moores University and I show how competition between relatives can lead to mass evictions.

War cries
The drama ensues when the presence of greater numbers of offspring and younger siblings compromise the productivity – breeding success – of senior group members.

Over a period of days, the happy family's territory then becomes a chaotic battleground between relatives. The conflict is ultimately resolved by the older, dominant individuals evicting their younger team-mates en-masse.

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