Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Group cohesion in foraging meerkats: follow the moving ‘vocal hot spot’


Gall, Gabriella E C; Manser, Marta B (2017). Group cohesion in foraging meerkats: follow the moving ‘vocal hot spot’. Royal Society Open Science, 4(4):170004.

Abstract

Group coordination, when ‘on the move’ or when visibility is low, is a challenge faced by many social living animals. While some animals manage to maintain cohesion solely through visual contact, the mechanism of group cohesion through other modes of communication, a necessity when visual contact is reduced, is not yet understood. Meerkats (Suricata suricatta), a small, social carnivore, forage as a cohesive group while moving continuously. While foraging, they frequently emit ‘close calls’, soft close-range contact calls. Variations in their call rates based on their local environment, coupled with individual movement, produce a dynamic acoustic landscape with a moving ‘vocal hotspot’ of the highest calling activity. We investigated whether meerkats follow such a vocal hotspot by playing back close calls of multiple individuals to foraging meerkats from the front and back edge of the group simultaneously. These two artificially induced vocal hotspots caused the group to spatially elongate and split into two subgroups. We conclude that meerkats use the emergent dynamic call pattern of the group to adjust their movement direction and maintain cohesion. Our study describes a highly flexible mechanism for the maintenance of group cohesion through vocal communication, for mobile species in habitats with low visibility and where movement decisions need to be adjusted continuously to changing environmental conditions.

Abstract

Group coordination, when ‘on the move’ or when visibility is low, is a challenge faced by many social living animals. While some animals manage to maintain cohesion solely through visual contact, the mechanism of group cohesion through other modes of communication, a necessity when visual contact is reduced, is not yet understood. Meerkats (Suricata suricatta), a small, social carnivore, forage as a cohesive group while moving continuously. While foraging, they frequently emit ‘close calls’, soft close-range contact calls. Variations in their call rates based on their local environment, coupled with individual movement, produce a dynamic acoustic landscape with a moving ‘vocal hotspot’ of the highest calling activity. We investigated whether meerkats follow such a vocal hotspot by playing back close calls of multiple individuals to foraging meerkats from the front and back edge of the group simultaneously. These two artificially induced vocal hotspots caused the group to spatially elongate and split into two subgroups. We conclude that meerkats use the emergent dynamic call pattern of the group to adjust their movement direction and maintain cohesion. Our study describes a highly flexible mechanism for the maintenance of group cohesion through vocal communication, for mobile species in habitats with low visibility and where movement decisions need to be adjusted continuously to changing environmental conditions.

Statistics

Citations

Dimensions.ai Metrics
3 citations in Web of Science®
4 citations in Scopus®
3 citations in Microsoft Academic
Google Scholar™

Altmetrics

Downloads

4 downloads since deposited on 19 Jan 2018
4 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

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:2017
Deposited On:19 Jan 2018 08:32
Last Modified:16 May 2018 15:10
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:2054-5703
Funders:SNF PDFMP3_141768 to M.B.M, UZH, ERC 294494 to T.H. Clutton-Brock
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170004
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleSNF PDFMP3_141768 to M.B.M
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleUZH
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleERC 294494 to T.H. Clutton-Brock

Download

Download PDF  'Group cohesion in foraging meerkats: follow the moving ‘vocal hot spot’'.
Preview
Content: Published Version
Filetype: PDF
Size: 480kB
View at publisher
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)