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In vertebrate societies where young are reared communally, nonbreeding helpers are usually closely related to young but often vary widely in their contributions to feeding them. Evolutionary explanations of helping behaviour have focused on whether differences in the level of contributions between helpers are related to variation in kinship. We investigated the contribution of helpers in meerkats, Suricata suricatta. The helpers varied widely in the number of food items they gave to pups and individual differences were related to variation in foraging success as well as to sex and age. When we controlled the influence of these variables, the level of contributions that helpers made to rearing pups was not significantly correlated with variation in kinship to the litters they were rearing. © 2001 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Original publication




Journal article


Animal Behaviour

Publication Date





705 - 710