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Meerkats stiffen their tail and blow out their fur in a & # 39; war dance & # 39; to scare rivals

Meerkat clans perform a & # 39; war dance & # 39; to scare opponents and protect their territory, a new study has discovered.

By observing groups of these notoriously cute creatures for 11 years, British researchers noted that more than half of the interactions with rival groups led to pursuit or the war dance.

The unusual movement means that each meerkat has an upright tail and inflated fur, possibly to make the group as a whole appear larger and to bounce on the ground.

After this screening, meerkats can get nasty during aggressive deadlock, often escalating into violence and, in extreme cases, death.

Meerkat groups show an upright tail and inflated fur in an attempt to withdraw the rival meerkat clan

Meerkat groups show an upright tail and inflated fur in an attempt to withdraw the rival meerkat clan

WHAT ARE MORE CATS?

The meerkat (Suricata suricatta) is a small burrowing member of the mongoose family.

It has a body length of approximately 11 centimeters and the smooth, pointed tail is 7.5 centimeters long

A group of meerkats becomes a & # 39; crowd & # 39 ;, & # 39; gang & # 39; or & # 39; clan & # 39; and often contains about 20 of the creatures.

Meerkats are mainly insectivores, but also eat other animals.

& # 39; In terms of movement, it is more of a bounce & # 39 ;, lead author and evolutionary anthropologist Dr. Mark Dyble at University College London told MailOnline.

& # 39; However, in terms of what it achieves, it is a means of showing the numerical, and perhaps physical, power of the group to a rival. & # 39;

In what they call the first empirical study on aggression between groups, researchers have followed hundreds of 11-year cat meetings in the Kalahari desert in South Africa.

Meerkats live in stable and social groups that show a high degree of cooperation in how they choose to breed with their group and how they fight rival groups.

Each clan consists of about 20 members, with a dominant man and a dominant woman who monopolize reproduction.

These specific dominant meerkats produce more than 80 percent of the offspring born in the group.

Meerkats are territorial and deposit faeces and scent marks within their territories and on territorial borders.

Clans work together to defend their territories and usually have aggressive interactions with neighbors.

& # 39; As with many animal competitions, meerkat interactions between groups involve an escalation of aggression from attitude to physical violence & # 39 ;, the researchers write in their research.

Researchers observed six different behaviors during these sometimes violent intergroup meetings, which were classified as initial observation, chasing, a & # 39; war dance & # 39; perform, withdraw from interaction, dig up the rival group's lair, and engage in aggressive physical contact.

The entire interaction usually lasts about 20 minutes and includes a combination of these six behaviors.

Avoidance was observed in 35.3 percent of interactions between meerkat groups before aggression or physical violence could occur.

Meerkat interactions between rival clans can often become violent and deadly, despite the fact that creatures display altruism towards their own group members

Meerkat interactions between rival clans can often become violent and deadly, despite the fact that creatures display altruism towards their own group members

Meerkat interactions between rival clans can often become violent and deadly, despite the fact that creatures display altruism towards their own group members

Of the remaining 64.7 percent, meerkat clans showed aggression by the & # 39; war dance & # 39; chasing or doing.

86.1 percent of these aggressive interactions ended with one of the two groups that withdrew from physical violence.

However, 9 percent of the interactions resulted in fighting, with at least one meerkat being killed in 3.1 percent of the total interactions.

Researchers discovered that 48 percent of all aggression was initiated by the dominant man and only 15 percent by the dominant woman.

& # 39; We show that interactions between meerkat groups are never tolerant, that the majority involve some form of aggression, and that a minority results in physical violence & # 39 ;, says Dr. Dyble.

& # 39; But even when interactions between meerkat groups do not lead to physical violence, they can have territorial consequences, with losing groups going to sleeping dens closer to the center of their territory and winning groups moving to dens further from the go to the center of their territory. & # 39;

For more than 11 years, researchers followed hundreds of meetings between meerkat groups in the Kalahari desert in South Africa

For more than 11 years, researchers followed hundreds of meetings between meerkat groups in the Kalahari desert in South Africa

For more than 11 years, researchers followed hundreds of meetings between meerkat groups in the Kalahari desert in South Africa

One of the specific points of fascination was the grim comparison between how meerkats behave with members of their own clan and how they act towards rivals.

The beings have been observed before and displayed altruism – ensuring the happiness of others – towards their own group members.

The question of whether previously observed altruism within meerkat groups is related to hostility between groups is a matter of & # 39; great theoretical importance & # 39 ;, write the scientists.

& # 39; If competition between groups has been an engine for cooperation within groups in human social evolution, we see no reason why this could not be important in the evolution of cooperative behavior in other highly social mammals, such as meerkats, & # 39; they write in their study, which is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

& # 39; If we want to fully understand violence in human societies, we must understand its evolutionary roots, & # 39; said Dr. Dyble.

& # 39; This requires us to understand why other animal groups are fighting, and what they gain or lose with it.

& # 39; We show that although meerkat aggression between groups only occasionally results in the death of an individual, winning battles with neighboring groups is crucial to maintaining a territory.

The data from the team was collected between January 2008 and February 2019 as part of the Kalahari Meerkat project, a long-term study of meerkat behavior.

The Kalahari Meerkat project is the oldest and largest project in the Kalahri Research Center, located in the Kuruman River Reserve in North-South Africa.

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