Reproductive competition triggers mass eviction in cooperative banded mongooses
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences
© 2016 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
In many vertebrate societies, forced eviction of group members is an important determinant of population structure, but little is known about what triggers eviction. Three main explanations are: (i) the reproductive competition hypothesis, (ii) the coercion of cooperation hypothesis, and (iii) the adaptive forced dispersal hypothesis. The last hypothesis proposes that dominant individuals use eviction as an adaptive strategy to propagate copies of their alleles through a highly structured population. We tested these hypotheses as explanations for eviction in cooperatively breeding banded mongooses (Mungos mungo), using a 16-year dataset on life history, behaviour and relatedness. In this species, groups of females, or mixed-sex groups, are periodically evicted en masse. Our evidence suggests that reproductive competition is the main ultimate trigger for eviction for both sexes. We find little evidence that mass eviction is used to coerce helping, or as a mechanism to force dispersal of relatives into the population. Eviction of females changes the landscape of reproductive competition for remaining males, which may explain why males are evicted alongside females. Our results show that the consequences of resolving within-group conflict resonate through groups and populations to affect population structure, with important implications for social evolution.
Funding was provided by NERC grant no. NE/J010278/1 to M.A.C. and A.J.Y. and ERC grant no. 309249 to M.A.C.
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Volume 283, issue 1826