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Spatial structure of foraging meerkat groups is affected by both social and ecological factors


Gall, Gabriella; Manser, Marta B (2018). Spatial structure of foraging meerkat groups is affected by both social and ecological factors. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology:72:77.

Abstract

Group-living animals need to trade off the benefits and the costs of close proximity to conspecifics. Benefits can be increased, and costs reduced by preferentially choosing specific locations within a group best adjusted to an individual’s needs or by associating with specific group members and/or avoiding others. We investigated the spatial structure of meerkat (Suricata suricatta) groups and whether it was shaped by social factors such as affiliation or aggression among group members, predation risk, foraging success, or a mix of these different factors. Using social network analyses, based on spatial networks, we found associations between the dominant pair, among males and among same aged individuals, and dis-assortment by sex only in one to two of the six groups. In addition, the structure of meerkat groups was highly variable, as individual strength within the calculated networks was not repeatable over time. Meerkats seemed to adjust their location to their physical environment, as dominant individuals were located further toward the front of the group, where foraging success is likely higher and young individuals located further toward the back of the group, where they can benefit most from the vigilance effort of their conspecifics. We conclude that meerkat groups display a dynamic spatial structure depending on both the current social and physical environmental.

Abstract

Group-living animals need to trade off the benefits and the costs of close proximity to conspecifics. Benefits can be increased, and costs reduced by preferentially choosing specific locations within a group best adjusted to an individual’s needs or by associating with specific group members and/or avoiding others. We investigated the spatial structure of meerkat (Suricata suricatta) groups and whether it was shaped by social factors such as affiliation or aggression among group members, predation risk, foraging success, or a mix of these different factors. Using social network analyses, based on spatial networks, we found associations between the dominant pair, among males and among same aged individuals, and dis-assortment by sex only in one to two of the six groups. In addition, the structure of meerkat groups was highly variable, as individual strength within the calculated networks was not repeatable over time. Meerkats seemed to adjust their location to their physical environment, as dominant individuals were located further toward the front of the group, where foraging success is likely higher and young individuals located further toward the back of the group, where they can benefit most from the vigilance effort of their conspecifics. We conclude that meerkat groups display a dynamic spatial structure depending on both the current social and physical environmental.

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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:2018
Deposited On:08 Mar 2019 08:44
Last Modified:25 Sep 2019 00:26
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0340-5443
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-018-2490-x
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPDFMP3_141768
  • : Project TitleIndividual strategies in group coordination: the role of spatial organisation and vocal signaling
  • : FunderUniversity of Zurich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID294494
  • : Project TitleThe evolution and development of cooperation in mammalian societies

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