In many social species, group members form strong social bonds. Such strong bonds are well-known to generate long-term fitness benefits, but they are also expected to influence short-term behavioural decisions. Here, we use field observations and an experimental manipulation to investigate whether variation in social-bond strength (as determined from grooming interactions) influences nearest-neighbour choices while foraging in wild dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula). Preferred grooming partnerships (PGPs), representing particularly strong bonds, were found predominately between male–female dyads but among a range of dominance-status dyads. When searching for food, dwarf mongooses with PGPs were more likely than expected by chance to forage close to a preferred grooming partner. Foraging near a strongly bonded groupmate might reduce the predation risk or increase foraging opportunities and the transfer of social information. In addition, there could be stress-reducing benefits, although our field experiment provided no evidence that nearest-neighbour preferences for strongly bonded groupmates were additionally favoured, or indeed disrupted, in the aftermath of a short-term stressful event. Investigating the potential influence of strong social bonds on short-term behavioural decisions with potential fitness consequences is important for our understanding of social interactions and cooperation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by a University of Bristol Science Faculty Studentship (to J.M.K.) and a European Research Council Consolidator Grant 682253 (to A.N.R.).
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.
- Social bonds
- Foraging behaviour
- Anti-predator behaviour
- Vocal communication
- Dwarf mongoose