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The Meerkat Clan

February 19, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 292

Meerkats are very social animals, they usually live in large groups. You might wonder why meerkats have evolved to live like this, what life is like inside a meerkat clan, and how new clans form. I'll try to answer these questions in this article.

Meerkat clans usually start when an evicted female gets together with a roving male, and the pair decide to throw in together. Although sometimes other meerkats will join the group, usually siblings of the mating pair, the clans normally start small, but expand quickly due to the size of meerkat litters, and how often meerkats breed.

The dominant pair are always unrelated if they breed together, but you can end up with a related dominant pair through deaths in the clan. The rest of the clan tends to be made up of siblings and children of the top two. These family groups can quickly expand to twenty or thirty members, with clans as large as fifty being reported.

Living as part of a clan is a real team effort; it means doing everything together. Meerkats find food together; while foraging they spread out 6-45 feet apart, while one member of the group takes sentry duty. Meerkats also sleep together, the whole clan squeezes into the small tunnels of the burrow, or they pile on top of each other for a midday nap.

Being part of the clan doesn't just mean that you forego personal time and space, it means doing your bit for the group. All clan members are expected to help maintaining the burrows, keeping sentry duty, fighting off predators and rivals, babysitting and teaching the pups, except for the alpha female, who rarely babysits.

In exchange for the extra responsibilities and restrictions that come from being part of the clan, the meerkats get something important in return, safety. It's a dangerous world out there for a lone meerkat, between predators and hostile clans it's hard for a single meerkat to survive in the desert.

Although it's much safer living with a clan, members do leave. Only the dominant pair of the clan are aloud to breed, and the urge to mate is so strong that it drives subordinate meerkats to leave the group.

Males will usually leave their clan by the age of three to look for breeding opportunities. Females, on the other hand, will usually stay with their family until being kicked out by the dominant female, who evicts rivals when she's close to giving birth. Often, evicted females return to their clan after a few weeks, but sometimes they get together with a roving male, and a new clan is born.

S.U. 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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