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Why do meerkat pups stop begging?


Madden, J R; Kunc, H P; English, S; Clutton-Brock, T H (2009). Why do meerkat pups stop begging? Animal Behaviour, 78(1):85-89.

Abstract

Begging by young provokes adults to provide food for them. However, eventually begging by young and provisioning by adults cease and young become nutritionally independent. Why do young cease begging and so forgo food brought to them by adults? Three explanations have been proposed: (1) adults may not respond to begging anymore and cease feeding begging young: (2) young may voluntarily switch from begging to independent foraging as they gain more rewards from this: (3) young may become unable to produce stimulating begging calls. We tested the three explanations using meerkat, Suricata suricatta, pups. Playback of begging calls at groups where begging had naturally ceased provoked adults to resume provisioning, suggesting that adults had not stopped responding to begging. Experimental provision of food to pups mimicking either natural pup feeding or foraging success produced no differences in subsequent changes in begging or foraging behaviour, suggesting that pups were
not assessing the most rewarding means of obtaining food and switching from begging to foraging accordingly. The begging calls of pups (aged 40-60 days) were acoustically different to those produced when they were juveniles (aged 100-120 days), and adults discriminated between rate-controlled playbacks of the two age classes of calls, delivering less food calls of a juvenile than to the same individual’s calls recorded when a pup. Adult meerkats paid attention to the acoustic structure of begging calls, and ceased provisioning when the call structure changed. We suggest that older pups are unable to produce stimulating begging calls.

Abstract

Begging by young provokes adults to provide food for them. However, eventually begging by young and provisioning by adults cease and young become nutritionally independent. Why do young cease begging and so forgo food brought to them by adults? Three explanations have been proposed: (1) adults may not respond to begging anymore and cease feeding begging young: (2) young may voluntarily switch from begging to independent foraging as they gain more rewards from this: (3) young may become unable to produce stimulating begging calls. We tested the three explanations using meerkat, Suricata suricatta, pups. Playback of begging calls at groups where begging had naturally ceased provoked adults to resume provisioning, suggesting that adults had not stopped responding to begging. Experimental provision of food to pups mimicking either natural pup feeding or foraging success produced no differences in subsequent changes in begging or foraging behaviour, suggesting that pups were
not assessing the most rewarding means of obtaining food and switching from begging to foraging accordingly. The begging calls of pups (aged 40-60 days) were acoustically different to those produced when they were juveniles (aged 100-120 days), and adults discriminated between rate-controlled playbacks of the two age classes of calls, delivering less food calls of a juvenile than to the same individual’s calls recorded when a pup. Adult meerkats paid attention to the acoustic structure of begging calls, and ceased provisioning when the call structure changed. We suggest that older pups are unable to produce stimulating begging calls.

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6 citations in Web of Science®
9 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Zoology (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:adult provisioning, begging, independent foraging, meerkat, Suricata suricatta
Language:English
Date:July 2009
Deposited On:01 Jul 2009 04:47
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:17
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0003-3472
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.03.011

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