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Genetic structure, relatedness and helping behaviour in the yellow mongoose in a farmland and a natural habitat

Authors

  • T. N. C. Vidya,

    1. Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa
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  • Z. Balmforth,

    1. Biology and Environmental Science, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
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    • Current address: Z. Balmforth, Where the Woozle Wasn't, Manaton, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ13 9UW, UK.

  • A. Le Roux,

    1. Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa
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    • Current address: A. Le Roux, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.

  • M. I. Cherry

    1. Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa
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  • Editor: Jean-Nicolas Volff

Correspondence
Current address: T. N. C. Vidya. Evolutionary and Organismal Biology Unit, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Jakkur, PO Box 6436, Bangalore 560064, India.
Email: tncvidya@jncasr.ac.in

Abstract

The yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata is a facultatively social species and provides an opportunity to study the evolution of social behaviour. We examined genetic structure, relatedness and helping behaviour in the yellow mongoose in natural habitat in the Kalahari Desert, where the species lives in small family groups of up to four individuals and shows no cooperative breeding; and in farmland in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, where they live in larger groups of up to 13 individuals, engage in numerous social interactions and show cooperative breeding. The farmland population showed significant inbreeding, and lower genetic variability than the desert population, but there was no evidence of a recent population bottleneck. The genetic relatedness between individuals within social groups and that between future potential helpers and pups were higher in the farmland population than in the desert population. However, based on a limited sample, helping effort (in the farmland population) was not preferentially directed towards kin. Thus, the origin of helping in the farmland population is consistent with kin selection, but in the absence of kin discrimination, future research should investigate whether long-term breeding opportunities or group augmentation contribute to maintaining cooperative breeding in this population.

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