Meerkats Become Fat Cats in Large Cooperatives

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2

The habituation of the meerkats allowed the researchers to temporarily remove pups from or add pups to the mobs and weigh the same individuals several times each day, which gave the researchers an accurate measure of the meerkats feeding success and weight gain. "This has never been previously possible with a wild animal," said Clutton-Brock.

The research shows that reducing the ratio of helpers to pups' by adding additional pups to the mob reduces the daily weight gain of the pups and the helpers, which reduces pup survival rates and decreases their foraging abilities in later life.

In mobs that have a low helper-to-pup ratio, the helpers are unable to sufficiently respond to all the pups' yelps for food, nor do the helpers have enough food to maintain their own weight, the researchers note.

In mobs where helper-to-pup ratios are higher, helpers are able to both provide sufficient food to the young and maintain their own food intake and weight gain, which makes keeping a high helper-to-pup ratio in meerkat mobs advantageous for both helpers and pups.

"In colonies that are a little too small there are not enough [meerkats] to do the work," said Pam Wallberg, director of the Fellow Earthlings Wildlife Center, a captive meerkat facility in Morongo Valley, California. "They need a breeding pair, baby-sitters, a sentry…"

"Fifteen to 30 is pretty good," she said. "Less than five is too narrow of a number to do all the jobs effectively. Some jobs will be neglected, say guard duty, and they will have predator problems."


Use this National Geographic News article in your classroom with the Xpeditions lesson plan: Animals versus People: Who's the Better Navigator?

Recent Stories About Research Supported by the National Geographic Society:

Ancient Walking Whales Shed Light on Ancestry of Ocean Giants

DNA Tests Show African Elephants Are Two Species

Study Calls Into Question Global Quotas on Bluefin Tuna

Skeleton of New Dinosaur Species Found in Madagascar

Russian Tombs Hold Clues to Obscure Life of Asian Huns

Egyptian Archaeologist Named National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

Total Eclipse May Help Solve Mystery of Sun's "Halo"

Expedition Reveals Black Coral's Bleak State

Ancient Reptile Was First To Chew Plants

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.