Dominance loss and tenure maintenance in Kalahari meerkats

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title> jats:pIn many social species, both the acquisition of dominance and the duration that individuals maintain their status are important determinants of breeding tenure and lifetime reproductive success. However, few studies have yet examined the extent and causes of variation in dominance tenure and the duration of breeding lifespans. Here, we investigate the processes that terminate dominance tenures and examine how they differ between the sexes in wild Kalahari meerkats (Suricata suricatta), a cooperative breeder where a dominant breeding pair produces most of the young recruited into each group. Mortality and displacement by resident subordinate competitors were important forms of dominance loss for both sexes. However, dominant males (but rarely females) were also at risk of takeovers by extra-group invading males. Dominant males also differed from dominant females in that they abandoned their group after the death of their breeding partner, when no other breeding opportunities were present, whereas dominant females that lost their partner remained and continued to breed in the same group. We show that a larger number of processes can terminate dominance tenure in males with the result that the average male tenure of breeding positions was shorter than that of females, which contributes to the reduced variance in the lifetime reproductive success in males compared to females. Our analysis suggests that sex differences in emigration and immigration may often have downstream consequences for sex differences in reproductive variance and for the selection pressures operating on females and males.</jats:p>

breeding lifespan, cooperative breeders, dispersal, dominance tenure, intrasexual competition, Suricata suricatta
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Oxford University Press (OUP)
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/G006822/1)
European Research Council (294494)
European Research Council (742808)