Top males gain high reproductive success by guarding more successful females in a cooperatively breeding mongoose

Hazel J. Nichols, William Amos, Michael A. Cant, Matthew B. V. Bell, Sarah J. Hodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Of key importance for understanding cooperative societies is the way in which reproductive opportunities are distributed among group members. Traditionally, skew has been thought of as a product of intrasexual competition. However, cooperatively breeding species often live in mixed-sex groups, so the behaviour of one sex has the potential to influence skew in the other. We addressed the importance of inter-and intrasexual conflict in determining reproductive skew through a study of paternity sharing in the cooperatively breeding banded mongoose, Mungus mungo. Unlike banded mongoose females, where reproductive skew is low, males exhibited high skew, with 85% of paternities being assigned to the three oldest males in each group. Individual males appeared unable to monopolize reproduction because females come into oestrus in synchrony and mate multiply. Instead, older males increased their success by mate guarding the oldest, most fecund females. Our findings therefore highlight the importance of mate choice in males and reveal the behavioural differences between the sexes that generate reproductive skew. They also emphasize the considerable influence that female behaviour can have on male reproductive skew. (C) 2010 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-657
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number4
Early online date29 Jul 2010
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • banded mongoose
  • cooperative breeding
  • intersexual conflict
  • mate choice
  • mate guarding
  • Mungos mungo
  • reproductive skew


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