Sometimes You Can Pick Your Parents

Young mongooses decide which adults will be their guardians

04-01-2009 // Hannah Schardt

AFRICA’S BANDED MONGOOSES live in cooperative breeding societies—extended family groups in which the adults that care for the young are not necessarily their biological parents. But cooperative doesn’t mean conflict-free. A recent study finds that a month after they are born, each young mongoose selects one particular adult to provide food and protection from predators. Not only do the pups do the choosing; they also fiercely guard their chosen adult against interacting with other juvenile mongooses.

Researcher Jason Gilchrist of Scotland’s Napier University made the surprising discovery when he separated banded mongoose pups from their escorts for two days. When the pups were released, they quickly returned to those caretakers and chased off young intruders.

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