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Keywords:

  • condition;
  • helpers;
  • kin selection;
  • maternal;
  • social;
  • weight

Summary

  • 1
    We examined the relative importance of maternal, environmental and social factors for post-weaning pup growth and survival in a co-operatively breeding mammal, the meerkat Suricata suricatta .
  • 2
    Pup daily weight gain was primarily influenced by the number of carers per pup and the daily weight gain of those carers. Rainfall and daily temperatures had additional positive and negative effects, respectively, on weight gain of pups born to subordinates.
  • 3
    Pup overnight weight loss was primarily influenced by the amount of weight pups gained during the day, and their age. However, pups also lost considerably more weight overnight when temperatures were cold, although such effects were less in large groups.
  • 4
    Pup growth rates were positively influenced by the number of carers per pup and carer condition, and negatively influenced by high daytime temperatures.
  • 5
    Pup weight at independence was positively associated with weight at emergence and pup weight gain during provisioning, but negatively associated with the extent of overnight weight loss.
  • 6
    Pup survival between emergence and independence was related to maternal status, pup sex and overnight weight loss, as well as to group size, daytime temperature and monthly rainfall.
  • 7
    Thus, in meerkats, social factors largely, but not wholly, replace the importance of maternal factors that are commonly found to govern reproductive success in non-co-operatively breeding social vertebrates.