In cooperatively breeding species with high reproductive skew, a single breeding female is dominant to all other group members, but it is not yet known if there are consistent dominance relationships among subordinates. In this study on meerkats (Suricata suricatta), we used naturally observed dominance assertions and submissive interactions within dyads of subordinate females to investigate: (i) whether or not a dominance structure exists among them and what factors influence dominance relationships; and (ii) how dominance may influence the future reproductive success of subordinate females. Our study indicates that superiority in age and weight provide a competitive advantage during conflicts among subordinate females and that females who consistently dominate in these contests are subsequently more likely to attain a dominant breeding position. This provides a starting point for further investigations into dominance structure among subordinates in meerkat societies and other cooperative breeders.
Infanticide and expulsion of females in a cooperative mammal. —
Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci.265:
Cooperation, control and concession in meerkat groups. —
Stress and suppression of subordinate reproduction in cooperatively breeding meerkats. —
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA103: