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Odour-based kin discrimination in the cooperatively breeding meerkat


Leclaire, S; Nielsen, J F; Thavarajah, N K; Manser, M; Clutton-Brock, T H (2013). Odour-based kin discrimination in the cooperatively breeding meerkat. Biology Letters, 9(1):20121054.

Abstract

Kin recognition is a useful ability for animals, facilitating cooperation among relatives and avoidance of excessive kin competition or inbreeding. In meer- kats, Suricata suricatta, encounters between unfamiliar kin are relatively frequent, and kin recognition by phenotype matching is expected to avoid inbreeding with close relatives. Here, we investigate whether female meer- kats are able to discriminate the scent of unfamiliar kin from unfamiliar non-kin. Dominant females were presented with anal gland secretion from unfamiliar individuals that varied in their relatedness. Our result indicates that females spent more time investigating the scent of related than unre- lated unfamiliar individuals, suggesting that females may use a phenotype matching mechanism (or recognition alleles) to discriminate the odour of their kin from the odour of their non-kin. Our study provides a key starting point for further investigations into the use of kin recognition for inbreeding avoidance in the widely studied meerkat.

Abstract

Kin recognition is a useful ability for animals, facilitating cooperation among relatives and avoidance of excessive kin competition or inbreeding. In meer- kats, Suricata suricatta, encounters between unfamiliar kin are relatively frequent, and kin recognition by phenotype matching is expected to avoid inbreeding with close relatives. Here, we investigate whether female meer- kats are able to discriminate the scent of unfamiliar kin from unfamiliar non-kin. Dominant females were presented with anal gland secretion from unfamiliar individuals that varied in their relatedness. Our result indicates that females spent more time investigating the scent of related than unre- lated unfamiliar individuals, suggesting that females may use a phenotype matching mechanism (or recognition alleles) to discriminate the odour of their kin from the odour of their non-kin. Our study provides a key starting point for further investigations into the use of kin recognition for inbreeding avoidance in the widely studied meerkat.

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13 citations in Web of Science®
13 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Contributors:Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich
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:2013
Deposited On:04 Dec 2013 15:24
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:12
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:1744-9561
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2012.1054

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