Mixed species groups in mammals


Eva Stensland. E-mail: Eva.Stensland@zoologi.su.se


1. Mixed species groups have long been noted in birds, but they also occur among different species of mammals ranging from closely related species to species from different orders. Mixed species groups of mammals occur in many different habitats, e.g. ungulates on the savannah, primates in various types of forests and cetaceans in the oceans. Mixed species groups are very different in their duration, frequency, predominant activity and structure depending on the species interacting and the habitat they occur in.

2. Functional explanations for mixed species groups usually fall within two categories: foraging advantages and predator avoidance. However, there could also be other social and reproductive advantages of mixed species groups that could contribute to their formation and stability. The advantages do not have to be equally distributed between the participating species and can also vary according to season and the presence of predators.

3. It is important that all investigators of mixed species groups take their studies one step further after the naturalistic description and test the function and benefits of mixed species groups in order to give more strength to their conclusions. In this paper we review and discuss the function of mixed species groups in mammals and suggest an approach on how to investigate the function of such groups.