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Social monitoring via close calls in meerkats


Reber, Stephan; Townsend, Simon William; Manser, Marta B (2013). Social monitoring via close calls in meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 280:1765.

Abstract

Social monitoring of the actions of group members is thought to be a key development associated with group living. Humans constantly monitor the behaviour of others and respond to them in a flexible way depending on past interactions and the current social context. While other primates have also been reported to change their behaviour towards other group members flexibly based on the current state of their relationship, empirical evidence is typically linked to contextually specific events such as aggressive or reproductive interactions. In the cooperatively breeding meerkat (Suricata suricatta), we investigated whether subordinate females use frequently emitted, non-agonistic close calls to monitor the location of the dominant female and whether they subsequently adjust their response based on recent social interactions during conflict and non-conflict periods. Subjects discriminated between the close calls of the dominant female and control playbacks, responding by approaching the loudspeaker and displaying submissive behaviour only if they were currently threatened by eviction. Our results suggest that meerkats assess the risk for aggressive interactions with close associates depending on social circumstances, and respond accordingly. We argue that social monitoring based on non-agonistic cues is probably a common mechanism in group-living species that allows the adjustment of behaviour depending on variation in relationships.

Abstract

Social monitoring of the actions of group members is thought to be a key development associated with group living. Humans constantly monitor the behaviour of others and respond to them in a flexible way depending on past interactions and the current social context. While other primates have also been reported to change their behaviour towards other group members flexibly based on the current state of their relationship, empirical evidence is typically linked to contextually specific events such as aggressive or reproductive interactions. In the cooperatively breeding meerkat (Suricata suricatta), we investigated whether subordinate females use frequently emitted, non-agonistic close calls to monitor the location of the dominant female and whether they subsequently adjust their response based on recent social interactions during conflict and non-conflict periods. Subjects discriminated between the close calls of the dominant female and control playbacks, responding by approaching the loudspeaker and displaying submissive behaviour only if they were currently threatened by eviction. Our results suggest that meerkats assess the risk for aggressive interactions with close associates depending on social circumstances, and respond accordingly. We argue that social monitoring based on non-agonistic cues is probably a common mechanism in group-living species that allows the adjustment of behaviour depending on variation in relationships.

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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:2013
Deposited On:12 Sep 2013 14:18
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:57
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8452
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.1013
PubMed ID:23825208

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