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Permanent URL to this publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-18597

Madden, J R; Kunc, H P; English, S; Manser, M B; Clutton-Brock, T H (2009). Calling in the gap: competition or cooperation in littermates’ begging behaviour? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1660):1255-1262.

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Offspring are frequently raised alongside their siblings and are provisioned early in life by adults. Adult provisioning is stimulated by offspring begging, but it is unclear how each offspring should beg, given the begging behaviour of their siblings. It has previously been suggested that siblings may compete directly through begging for a fixed level of provisioning, or that siblings may cooperate in their begging in order to jointly elevate the level of provisioning by adults. We studied the begging behaviour of meerkat Suricata suricatta pups, explored how it changed as the begging behaviour of their littermates altered, and asked how the adults responded to group-level changes in begging. We found conflicting evidence for the classical models of competitive and cooperative begging. Pups reared in larger litters begged at higher rates, yet experimentally increasing begging levels within groups caused individual begging rates to decrease. Pups decreased begging rates
when close to other begging pups, and pups space further apart were fed more. Adults increased their overall level of provisioning as group levels of begging increased, but per capita provisioning decreased. Adults preferred to provision speakers playing back recordings of two pups begging alternately to recordings of the same two pups begging simultaneously. Therefore, we suggest that meerkat pups avoid some of the costs of direct competition imposed by an escalation of begging as other pups beg, by begging in the gaps between the bouts of others or avoiding littermates. Such behaviour is also preferred by provisioning adults, thus providing additional benefits to the pups.


17 citations in Web of Science®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:begging; meerkats; cooperation; indirect competition; coordination
Date:April 2009
Deposited On:20 May 2009 08:03
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:13
Publisher:Royal Society of London
Publisher DOI:10.1098/rspb.2008.1660

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