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Anim Behav. 2001 Jan;61(1):17-30.

Dominance, reproduction and survival in banded mongooses: towards an egalitarian social system?

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Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London


The banded mongoose, Mungos mungo, is a social species that forms multimale and multifemale family groups. Earlier studies suggest these family groups are relatively egalitarian with small differences in reproductive opportunities among individuals of different rank. In contrast, previous studies of other social mongooses have focused on species with more despotic control of reproduction (meerkats, Suricata suricatta, dwarf mongooses, Helogale parvula). In these species, the distribution of reproductive opportunities amongst individuals of different rank has met the predictions of reproductive skew theory: dominant individuals accrue greater reproductive benefits than subordinates, with subordinates breeding less often than dominants. In this paper we test how well two predictions of reproductive skew theory explain variance in measures of reproductive effort, and its correlates, in a wild population of banded mongooses in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. We measure dominance rank in males and females, and we investigate whether individuals of higher social rank accrue greater benefits than subordinates in terms of survival and reproduction. Banded mongoose dominance hierarchies showed linearity, but low reproductive skew. Rank was not significantly correlated with age. Furthermore, there were only small effects of dominance rank on nutritional levels, and no effects on reproduction and survival, suggesting that banded mongoose societies are indeed relatively egalitarian. No evidence of reproductive suppression was found and other forms of reproductive control were not observed. However, we do not exclude the possibility of increased reproductive competition in circumstances of higher ecological constraints. These findings show that reproductive skew theory is equally useful in explaining variation in reproduction in societies with low reproductive skew, as it is in explaining the allocation of reproductive effort in despotic social systems.


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