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Latrine distribution and patterns of use by wild meerkats: implications for territory and mate defence


Jordan, N R; Cherry, M I; Manser, M B (2007). Latrine distribution and patterns of use by wild meerkats: implications for territory and mate defence. Animal Behaviour, 73(4):613-622.

Abstract

Many carnivores defend territories and deposit faeces and other scent-marks at specific latrine sites. The role of latrines in territory defence is well established, but evidence suggests at least a subsidiary role in mate defence. We investigated latrine function in cooperative meerkats, Suricata suricatta. By analyses spatial and temporal distribution of latrines we found patterns that might facilitate information transmission to a range of potential intruders. Each group usually shared one latrine with each known neighbouring group, which probably allowed efficient intergroup monitoring of surrounding land tenure. The remaining latrines were primarily concentrated in territorial core regions. As transient groups and prospecting males enter territories unpredictably, this distribution may maximise the likelihood of latrine discovery. In large meerkat territories, the chance of intruders missing widely spaced boundary scent-marks is high, and a core-marking strategy may the refore be more effective. Latrines were positioned close to refuge sites, which may further increase the likelihood of intercepting intruders, as prospectors are known to visit these sites regularly during intrusions. Although latrine use did not increase during periods when resident females were sexually receptive, it was significantly more likely during the peak period in general, and occurred at significantly greater rates during observation periods when prospecting males were encountered. As prospectors threaten resident male reproductive success, these results highlight the potential importance of latrines in mate defence.

Many carnivores defend territories and deposit faeces and other scent-marks at specific latrine sites. The role of latrines in territory defence is well established, but evidence suggests at least a subsidiary role in mate defence. We investigated latrine function in cooperative meerkats, Suricata suricatta. By analyses spatial and temporal distribution of latrines we found patterns that might facilitate information transmission to a range of potential intruders. Each group usually shared one latrine with each known neighbouring group, which probably allowed efficient intergroup monitoring of surrounding land tenure. The remaining latrines were primarily concentrated in territorial core regions. As transient groups and prospecting males enter territories unpredictably, this distribution may maximise the likelihood of latrine discovery. In large meerkat territories, the chance of intruders missing widely spaced boundary scent-marks is high, and a core-marking strategy may the refore be more effective. Latrines were positioned close to refuge sites, which may further increase the likelihood of intercepting intruders, as prospectors are known to visit these sites regularly during intrusions. Although latrine use did not increase during periods when resident females were sexually receptive, it was significantly more likely during the peak period in general, and occurred at significantly greater rates during observation periods when prospecting males were encountered. As prospectors threaten resident male reproductive success, these results highlight the potential importance of latrines in mate defence.

Citations

57 citations in Web of Science®
59 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed
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:carnivore, conflict, latrine distribution, mate defence, meerkat, odour, olfactory communication, scent marking, Suricata suricatta, territory defence
Language:English
Date:4 April 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.2006.06.010

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