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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Nov 7;275(1650):2491-8. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0597.

Aggressive monopolization of mobile carers by young of a cooperative breeder.

Author information

  • Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK. j.gilchrist@napier.ac.uk


Competition between young of the same brood or litter is of particular interest in the fields of behavioural and evolutionary ecology, because the competing individuals are likely to be closely related, where evolutionary theory predicts a greater degree of cooperation. Studies of cooperative breeding species typically concentrate on who contributes care to rearing young, and assume a passive role of the young. Relatively, little attention has been devoted to considering how intralitter competition between young affects the distribution of care in cooperative breeders. In banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) groups, the majority of pups each form a stable exclusive one-to-one association with an adult group member (its 'escort') that is its principal care provider. This paper presents experimental evidence that each pup aggressively defends access to its escort, preventing other pups approaching, and therefore monopolizes the care provided by its escort. Each pup travels with the group and follows its escort, around which its exclusion zone is fixed: a form of mobile territoriality. This represents a novel system of care of young in a mammal species, but has general implications for the study of the distribution of care of young, particularly in cooperative breeding species. Parents and helpers may provide biased care to young, not due to preference but due to the competitive actions of the young within the brood or litter.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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