Caregivers recognize and bias response towards individual young in a cooperative breeding mammal, the banded mongoose


Jason S. Gilchrist, Current address: School of Life Sciences, Napier University, 10 Colinton Road, Edinburgh EH10 5DT, UK.


In research on parental care and cooperative breeding an issue is whether caregivers recognize individual young and therefore preferentially care for those young that will maximize inclusive fitness gains. This field study experimentally evaluates whether caregivers within groups of the cooperative breeding banded mongoose (a communal breeding species that produces litters of mixed parentage) exhibit individual recognition and increased responsiveness to the pup to which they are normally associated within a stable escort–pup pairing. A focal pup was presented to its group under controlled circumstances following temporary removal. The focal escort of a specific pup was more responsive to controlled presentation of that pup than other adults (a control escort, other escorts and non-escorts), spending a greater amount of time in close proximity. This study therefore demonstrates individual recognition and increased responsiveness by adult caregivers to associated pups in the banded mongoose. Thus, caregivers may selectively provide care for specific young within a litter, potentially increasing their inclusive fitness.