Experimental evidence for delayed contingent cooperation among wild dwarf mongooses

Julie M. Kern, Andrew N. Radford*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
294 Downloads (Pure)


Many animals participate in biological markets, with strong evidence existing for immediate cooperative trades. In particular, grooming is often exchanged for itself or other commodities, such as coalitionary support or access to food and mates. More contentious is the possibility that nonhuman animals can rely on memories of recent events, providing contingent cooperation even when there is a temporal delay between two cooperative acts. Here we provide experimental evidence of delayed cross-commodity grooming exchange in wild dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula). First, we use natural observations and social-network analyses to demonstrate a positive link between grooming and sentinel behavior (acting as a raised guard). Group members who contributed more to sentinel behavior received more grooming and had a better socialnetwork position. We then used a field-based playback experiment to test a causal link between contributions to sentinel behavior and grooming received later in the day. During 3-h trial sessions, the perceived sentinel contributions of a focal individual were either up-regulated (playback of its surveillance calls, which are given naturally during sentinel bouts) or unmanipulated (playback of its foraging close calls as a control). On returning to the sleeping refuge at the end of the day, focal individuals received more grooming following surveillance-call playback than control-call playback and more grooming than a matched individual whose sentinel contributions were not up-regulated. We believe our study therefore provides experimental evidence of delayed contingent cooperation in a wild nonprimate species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6255-6260
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
Early online date29 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2018


  • Biological markets
  • Delayed rewards
  • Economic behavior
  • Reciprocity
  • Social information


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