Strongly bonded individuals prefer to forage together in cooperatively breeding dwarf mongoose groups

Julie M Kern*, Andrew N Radford

*Corresponding author for this work

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

1 Citation (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number85
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number5
Early online date30 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding 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.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 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


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