Dispersal and extra-territorial prospecting by slender-tailed meerkats (Suricata suricatta) in the south-western Kalahari
Doolan SP., Macdonald DW.
Dispersal in slender-tailed meerkats or suricates, Suricata suricatta, in the south-western Kalahari occurred mainly during the early breeding season, and was age- and sex-dependent. Among yearlings, more males than females were immigrants, but more females than males disappeared. There were no sex differences in dispersal among two-year-olds, but among animals aged three years or older, more males than females emigrated. Most dispersers moved into adjacent bands or joined other transients, and females apparently suffered higher rates of mortality than males. Kinship with the same-sex or opposite-sex breeder had no discernible effect on the likelihood of dispersing. Both males and females made prospecting forays to other groups, apparently to assess dispersal and breeding opportunities. Males-made frequent and repeated forays, often in coalitions with other band members or transients, whereas prospecting by females was generally solitary, and they were not known to make multiple forays. Prospecting males successfully took over dominance of two bands, and attempted to take over bands on three other occasions. Animals attempting to join or follow a band (trailers) behaved submissively and were readily chased by residents, whereas those attempting a dominance takeover (invaders) scent-marked at a high rate and showed no submissive behaviours. Dispersing meerkats maximized reproductive success by increasing their mating opportunities, while animals which delayed dispersal received indirect benefits by helping to raise kin.