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Meerkat Reproductive Strategy

February 21, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 535

Different species use different reproductive strategies to ensure that their offspring survive long enough to create the next generation. Some species have thousands of babies, and give them no nurture, depending on sheer weight of numbers to do the job. Others have only one child at a time, and invest a lot of time and effort in that child, to give it the best chance of survival. What strategy do meerkats favour?

The meerkat reproductive strategy is somewhere in between the two extremes, but a lot closer to the single child scenario; the average meerkat litter is 3 pups, and that seems to work well for them, but why litters of 2-5 pups?

The large family groups that meerkats live in provide a lot of help to the parents in raising the pups. For a solitary animal like an orang-utan, three babies would be near impossible to raise in the wild, but meerkats have many relatives around to act as babysitters and mentors, and to provide food and protection. Raising the pups is truly a communal effort for meerkats, as you might expect in such a cooperative society.

How does the group help nurture the pups?

As soon as the pups are ready for solid food, they start begging for it, and clan members provide it. It's not just the parents who share food, but any group member who decides to respond to the begging. Nobody likes to hear a baby going hungry.Speaking of food, before the pups are weaned, it's not unusual for females other than the mother to begin lactating, in order to feed the pups, even if the female has never had a litter of her own.Subordinate meerkats will volunteer to babysit the pups, while the rest of the group goes out foraging. Any meerkat in the group will volunteer for babysitting duty, and it's no laughing matter, because you could end up trying to fight off a predator on your own, and that's not to mention the boredom and hunger.When the pups are ready to start foraging with the group, each pup will be taken on by one adult, who acts as a mentor, teaching them all the skills they need to find food, and stay safe.Lastly, all the adults in the group will fight to the death to defend the pups. There are a lot of dangers out there for a meerkat pup, between predators and rival clans, it's a good job they have so many adults around to protect them.


Meerkats have evolved a strategy of nurturing their young, investing much time and energy to give them the best chance of survival. Their large family groups and cooperative society mean there's plenty of help at hand to raise several pups at a time, and still give them all the care they need.

Sue Ricatta is the owner of, where you can learn all about meerkats, and discover how these fascinating animals survive in the desert.

Source: EzineArticles
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