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Predation, group size and mortality in a cooperative mongoose, Suricata suricatta.


Clutton-Brock, T H; Gaynor, D; McIlrath, G M; Maccoll, A D C; Kansky, R; Chadwick, P; Manser, M; Skinner, J D; Brotherton, P N M (1999). Predation, group size and mortality in a cooperative mongoose, Suricata suricatta. Journal of Animal Ecology, 68(4):672-683.

Abstract

1. In social mammals where group members cooperate to detect predators and raise young, members of small groups commonly show higher mortality or lower breeding success than members of large ones. It is generally assumed that this is because large group size allows individuals to detect or repel predators more effectively but other benefits of group size may also be involved, including reduced costs of raising young and more effective competition for resources with neighbouring groups.

2. To investigate the extent to which predation rate affects survival, we compared mortality rates in two populations of suricates (Suricata suricatta), one living in an area of high predator density (Kalahari Gemsbok Park) and one living in an area of relatively low predator density (neighbouring ranchland). Most aspects of feeding ecology and growth (including time spent feeding, daily weight gain, growth, adult body weight, breeding frequency and neonatal mortality) were similar in the two populations. In contrast, mortality of animals over 3 months old was 1·7 times higher in the Park than on ranchland.

3. Mortality of juveniles between emergence from the natal burrow and 6 months of age was higher in small groups than large ones in the Park but significantly lower in small groups than large ones on ranchland. Adult mortality declined in larger groups in both areas.

4. The tendency for survival to be low in small groups had far-reaching consequences for the risk of group extinction. During a year of low rainfall in the Park, all groups of less than nine animals became extinct and population density declined to around a third of its initial level. We argue that high group extinction rates are to be expected in species where survival declines in small groups and mortality rates are high.

1. In social mammals where group members cooperate to detect predators and raise young, members of small groups commonly show higher mortality or lower breeding success than members of large ones. It is generally assumed that this is because large group size allows individuals to detect or repel predators more effectively but other benefits of group size may also be involved, including reduced costs of raising young and more effective competition for resources with neighbouring groups.

2. To investigate the extent to which predation rate affects survival, we compared mortality rates in two populations of suricates (Suricata suricatta), one living in an area of high predator density (Kalahari Gemsbok Park) and one living in an area of relatively low predator density (neighbouring ranchland). Most aspects of feeding ecology and growth (including time spent feeding, daily weight gain, growth, adult body weight, breeding frequency and neonatal mortality) were similar in the two populations. In contrast, mortality of animals over 3 months old was 1·7 times higher in the Park than on ranchland.

3. Mortality of juveniles between emergence from the natal burrow and 6 months of age was higher in small groups than large ones in the Park but significantly lower in small groups than large ones on ranchland. Adult mortality declined in larger groups in both areas.

4. The tendency for survival to be low in small groups had far-reaching consequences for the risk of group extinction. During a year of low rainfall in the Park, all groups of less than nine animals became extinct and population density declined to around a third of its initial level. We argue that high group extinction rates are to be expected in species where survival declines in small groups and mortality rates are high.

Citations

187 citations in Web of Science®
196 citations in Scopus®
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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)
Language:English
Date:1999
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:15
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:14
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0021-8790
Publisher DOI:10.1046/j.1365-2656.1999.00317.x

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