- Title: Banded mongoose gangs go to 'war'
- Date: 20th June 2017
- Summary: PENRYN, CORNWALL, ENGLAND, UK (MAY 11, 2017) (REUTERS) LEAD AUTHOR DR FAYE THOMPSON, OF THE CENTRE FOR ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION ON THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER'S PENRYN CAMPUS, IN FRONT OF VIDEO OF MONGOOSE FIGHTING (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR FAYE THOMPSON, OF THE CENTRE FOR ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION ON THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER'S PENRYN CAMPUS, SAYING: "I'm interested in how conflict arises and is resolved in cooperative species and mongooses, banded mongooses especially, are a really great system in which to study these questions because they exhibit this really conspicuous helping behaviour where individuals will help to raise pups in the group that aren't their own. As well as this really conspicuous co-operative behavior, they also have very conspicuous conflicts."
- Embargoed: 4th July 2017 10:05
- Keywords: mongoose banded gang war mongooses Faye Thompson Exeter Penryn
- Location: MWEYA, UGANDA / PENRYN, CORNWALL, ENGLAND, UK
- City: MWEYA, UGANDA / PENRYN, CORNWALL, ENGLAND, UK
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0026M31PWB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Banded mongooses are among the most vicious members of the animal kingdom. British researchers who have spent more than 20 years studying them say they've shed light on why the four-legged creatures engage in "gang warfare".
The University of Exeter team, led by Dr Faye Thompson, observed ferocious gang fights between habituated groups in their study population, involving up to 30 mongooses on each side.
According to Thompson, "banded mongooses exhibit conspicuous helping behaviour where individuals in the group help to raise pups that aren't their own. They also have conspicuous conflicts."
The fights, in which the two groups form distinct battle lines, are ferocious.
"It's tantamount to gang warfare. Individuals screech to alert fellow group members that there's a rival group in the area and then they'll come together and have these really violent clashes where individuals are often injured and sometimes killed."
During the conflicts individual mongooses were seen raiding dens and killing their neighbours' pups.
"It looks like these groups are fighting over resources like food and territory. But also it might be a way for individuals in these groups to mate with other group members. Banded mongoose groups can become very inbred, so engaging in fights with rivals might be a way to reduce the level of inbreeding within their group. We've actually observed males and females from rival groups engaging in matings while these very chaotic fights are going on," said Thompson.
She added: "A really surprising result was that pregnant females are less likely to abort their litter if their group is involved in a violent conflict during their gestation. Pregnant females might be finding a way to maintain their pregnancy to boost their group numbers and give them an advantage in future conflicts."
Thompson, who works at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter's Penryn campus, said that understanding intergroup conflict can help explain human behaviour.
"Humans are also a co-operative species. We live in social groups and help each other with things like raising a family and working together. So understanding how conflict arises and is resolved in species like banded mongooses can help us to understand human social behaviour."
The group's research was published in the journal Animal Behaviour and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the European Research Council.
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