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Resolution of experimentally induced symmetrical conflicts of interest in meerkats (Suricata suricatta)


Bousquet, C A H; Manser, M B (2011). Resolution of experimentally induced symmetrical conflicts of interest in meerkats (Suricata suricatta). Animal Behaviour, 81(6):1101-1107.

Abstract

Activity shifts in animal groups are a potential source of group fragmentation if members do not coordinate themselves. This coordination can become further complicated when individuals within a group face conflicts of interest. Here, we experimentally induced symmetrical conflicts of interest over which direction to choose in meerkat groups. We trained dominant and subordinate individuals to expect food at locations in opposite directions when the group was still at its sleeping burrow (i.e., before the group started foraging). Trained individuals were more likely to initiate group departure in the direction of their rewarded location and there was no difference between dominants and subordinates in initiation rate. Initiation of group departure seemed to be the most important factor determining the final direction of the group, as the direction chosen by the first initiator was rarely challenged afterwards. We did not observe any obvious signals used to enhance recruitment during this process. Over the experimental days, initiator identity changed suggesting that individual motivation to initiate group departure varies from day to day. All together, meerkats voluntarily avoided immediate foraging benefits to maintain cohesion with the group, which likely prevents them from incurring costs associated with becoming isolated. We conclude that individuals refrain from initiating group splits when conflicts of interest are low and any individual can take the lead, often without the use of obvious signals other than the displacement itself.

Activity shifts in animal groups are a potential source of group fragmentation if members do not coordinate themselves. This coordination can become further complicated when individuals within a group face conflicts of interest. Here, we experimentally induced symmetrical conflicts of interest over which direction to choose in meerkat groups. We trained dominant and subordinate individuals to expect food at locations in opposite directions when the group was still at its sleeping burrow (i.e., before the group started foraging). Trained individuals were more likely to initiate group departure in the direction of their rewarded location and there was no difference between dominants and subordinates in initiation rate. Initiation of group departure seemed to be the most important factor determining the final direction of the group, as the direction chosen by the first initiator was rarely challenged afterwards. We did not observe any obvious signals used to enhance recruitment during this process. Over the experimental days, initiator identity changed suggesting that individual motivation to initiate group departure varies from day to day. All together, meerkats voluntarily avoided immediate foraging benefits to maintain cohesion with the group, which likely prevents them from incurring costs associated with becoming isolated. We conclude that individuals refrain from initiating group splits when conflicts of interest are low and any individual can take the lead, often without the use of obvious signals other than the displacement itself.

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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:2011
Deposited On:19 Jul 2011 10:37
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:57
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0003-3472
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.02.030
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-48741

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