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The function of mobbing in cooperative meerkats


Graw, B; Manser, M B (2007). The function of mobbing in cooperative meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 74(3):507-517.

Abstract

To show context appropriate antipredator behaviour, animals require information about a predators’ motivation to hunt, and consequently the level of danger to which they are exposed at any given moment. In addition to deterring a predator, mobbing behaviour, in which animals approach a potential predator, might also provide information useful in predation risk assessment. Here we present the results of an experimental study on meerkats (Suricata suricatta), which showed mobbing behaviour in a variety of predator contexts. Groups were presented with a number of predators of varying threat levels, and with non-threatening animals. Responses to these stimuli by the different individuals in the groups, and vigilance behaviour before and after each presentation, were compared. Meerkats seemed to use mobbing not only to deter predators, but also to gather information about potential threats and adjust their behaviour accordingly. In particular, mobbing of nondangerous animals indicates the role of this behaviour in contexts other than just directed towards predators. Differences between age categories suggest that mobbing changes with experience, and may allow young to learn about predators by observing adults. We conclude that mobbing has a broader function beyond predator deterrence, and facilitates situational risk assessment on which subsequent decisions may be based.

To show context appropriate antipredator behaviour, animals require information about a predators’ motivation to hunt, and consequently the level of danger to which they are exposed at any given moment. In addition to deterring a predator, mobbing behaviour, in which animals approach a potential predator, might also provide information useful in predation risk assessment. Here we present the results of an experimental study on meerkats (Suricata suricatta), which showed mobbing behaviour in a variety of predator contexts. Groups were presented with a number of predators of varying threat levels, and with non-threatening animals. Responses to these stimuli by the different individuals in the groups, and vigilance behaviour before and after each presentation, were compared. Meerkats seemed to use mobbing not only to deter predators, but also to gather information about potential threats and adjust their behaviour accordingly. In particular, mobbing of nondangerous animals indicates the role of this behaviour in contexts other than just directed towards predators. Differences between age categories suggest that mobbing changes with experience, and may allow young to learn about predators by observing adults. We conclude that mobbing has a broader function beyond predator deterrence, and facilitates situational risk assessment on which subsequent decisions may be based.

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42 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:antipredator response, meerkat, mobbing, predator deterrence, risk assessment, Suricata suricatta
Language:English
Date:September 2007
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:14
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:13
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0003-3472
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.11.021
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-263

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