The social integration of European badger (Meles meles) cubs into their natal group
Fell RJ., Buesching CD., Macdonald DW.
Three main reasons have been suggested to explain the evolution of stable social groups in mammals: cooperation, resource dispersion, and natal philopatry. Here, we investigate the driving forces behind the social integration of badger Meles meles cubs into their natal group as a model for those species, where group-living has been attributed to ecological constraints. Between March 1995 and June 1996, we observed the cub/adult interactions of 9 litters in 2 badger social groups in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, from the time of their first emergence to full independence using remote controlled IR-video surveillance equipment. Our results show that with increasing age, cubs emerge earlier from the sett, interact with an increasing number of adults, and initiate a greater proportion of social interactions. Young cubs exhibit a specific behaviour (here termed 'scent-theft') to mark themselves with the subcaudal gland secretion of adult group-members, shown to carry group-specific information. In contrast to other social carnivores, badger cubs are not the focus of attention from adult group-members, but, supporting our hypothesis, their social integration into the natal group is gradual and cub-driven. © Brill Academic Publishers 2006.