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Sex differences in responsiveness to begging in a cooperative mammal


English, S; Kunc, H P; Madden, J R; Clutton-Brock, T H (2008). Sex differences in responsiveness to begging in a cooperative mammal. Biology Letters, 4(4):334-337.

Abstract

In species where young are provisioned by both parents, males commonly contribute less to parental care than females and are less responsive to variation in begging rates. Similar differences in the care of young occur among adults in cooperative breeders but fewer studies have investigated whether these are associated with differences in responsiveness. Here, we present results from a playback experiment investigating responsiveness to begging in the meerkat (Suricata suricatta), a cooperatively breeding mammal. Although increased begging rate raised the feeding rate of adults of both sexes, there was no consistent tendency for females to be more responsive than males. However, when we examined changes in the proportion of food items found that were fed to pups (generosity), we found that females were more responsive than males to increased begging rate. These results can be explained in terms of sex differences in dispersal: in meerkats, females are philopatric and rec
eive considerable benefits from investing in young, both directly, by increasing group size, and indirectly, by recruiting helpers if they inherit the breeding position. In addition, they emphasize that generosity provides a more sensitive measure of responsiveness to begging than feeding rate, as it accounts for variation in foraging success.

In species where young are provisioned by both parents, males commonly contribute less to parental care than females and are less responsive to variation in begging rates. Similar differences in the care of young occur among adults in cooperative breeders but fewer studies have investigated whether these are associated with differences in responsiveness. Here, we present results from a playback experiment investigating responsiveness to begging in the meerkat (Suricata suricatta), a cooperatively breeding mammal. Although increased begging rate raised the feeding rate of adults of both sexes, there was no consistent tendency for females to be more responsive than males. However, when we examined changes in the proportion of food items found that were fed to pups (generosity), we found that females were more responsive than males to increased begging rate. These results can be explained in terms of sex differences in dispersal: in meerkats, females are philopatric and rec
eive considerable benefits from investing in young, both directly, by increasing group size, and indirectly, by recruiting helpers if they inherit the breeding position. In addition, they emphasize that generosity provides a more sensitive measure of responsiveness to begging than feeding rate, as it accounts for variation in foraging success.

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13 citations in Web of Science®
13 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:begging, parental care, feeding rate, signalling, meerkat
Language:English
Date:23 August 2008
Deposited On:23 Oct 2008 15:35
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:29
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:1744-9561
Publisher DOI:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0200
Official URL:http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/4/334.full.pdf+html?sid=ac34f3e1-8851-4bf9-ac58-fd3c5e2c5b81
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-4253

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