Nautilus

It Takes a Village to Raise a Meerkat

Living in the flat, arid landscape of the Kalahari, meerkats are one of the most cooperative species of mammal on the planet. The scarcity of food and few places to hide from predators has led them to live in groups where they share the tasks of foraging and keeping watch.

But these diminutive animals also cooperate in ways that are rare among mammals. Meerkats live in large families of up to 50 individuals, but only one dominant male and female will breed while their pups are fed and raised by the others in the group.

“Only about one in six or seven female meerkats gets to breed successfully,” explained Tim Clutton-Brock, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge who has spent 24 years studying social behavior in meerkats in the Kalahari.

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