Determinants of reproductive success in dominant female meerkats
Article first published online: 21 NOV 2007
Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume 77, Issue 1, pages 92–102, January 2008
How to Cite
Hodge, S. J., Manica, A., Flower, T. P. and Clutton-Brock, T. H. (2008), Determinants of reproductive success in dominant female meerkats. Journal of Animal Ecology, 77: 92–102. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01318.x
- Issue published online: 21 NOV 2007
- Article first published online: 21 NOV 2007
- Received 14 April 2007; accepted 19 August 2007; Handling Editor: Mike Boots
- lifetime reproductive success;
- 1In cooperative societies with high reproductive skew, selection on females is likely to operate principally through variation in the probability of acquiring dominant status and variation in reproductive success while dominant. Despite this, few studies of cooperative societies have investigated the factors that influence which females become dominant, and/or their reproductive output while in the dominant position.
- 2Here we use long-term data from a wild meerkat population to describe variation in the breeding success of dominant female meerkats Suricata suricatta and investigate its causes.
- 3Female meerkats compete intensely for breeding positions, and the probability of acquiring the breeding role depends upon a female's age in relation to competitors and her weight, both at the time of dominance acquisition and early in life.
- 4Once dominant, individual differences in breeding success depend principally on the duration of dominance tenure. Females remain for longer in the dominant position if they are heavier than their competitors at the start of dominance, and if the number of adult female competitors at the start is low.
- 5Female breeding success is also affected by variation in fecundity and pup survival, both of which increase with group size. After controlling for these effects, female body weight has a positive influence on breeding rate and litter size, while the number of adult female competitors reduces litter survival.
- 6These findings suggest that selection for body weight and competitive ability will be high in female meerkats, which may moderate their investment in cooperative activities. We suggest that similar consequences of competition may occur among females in other cooperative societies where the benefits of attaining dominance status are high.