Do meerkat (Suricata suricatta) pups exhibit strategic begging behaviour and so exploit adults that feed at relatively high rates?

Joah R. Madden, Hans Joerg P. Kunc, Sinead English, Marta B. Manser, Tim H. Clutton-Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Adults vary in their generosity in provisioning the young and their sensitivity to the need of the young. Do the young modulate their behaviour so as to specifically target more high-provisioning adults? This is especially likely in situations with mobile, nutritionally dependent young. We studied cooperatively breeding meerkats Suricata suricatta, in which pups beg to parents and other adults in the group. We found that the young begged differently when next to different adults and that they are consistent in how they beg when next to each adult. Pups next to adults that provision at high rates beg at higher rates and spend longer with them, and these adults are generally more sensitive to increases in begging rate. Such behaviour has adaptive benefits to offspring in terms of increased likelihood of being fed. However, offspring do not appear to be actively seeking out high-provisioning adults or increasing their begging behaviour when they encounter one. Pups did not appear to actively discriminate between adults in their association or begging behaviour. We suggest instead that the relationship between an adult's relative contribution to pup feeding and the behaviour of its accompanying pup is driven by adult behaviour, with responsive adults that feed pups at a relatively higher rate preferentially associating with fast-begging hungry pups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1259-1268
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume63
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

Keywords

  • Begging
  • Meerkats
  • Parent-offspring conflict
  • Provisioning
  • Sexual conflict

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