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Competition, breeding success and ageing rates in female meerkats

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date08/2011
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Journal number8
Volume24
Number of pages7
Pages1756-1762
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Competition between females is particularly intense in cooperatively breeding mammals, where one female monopolises reproduction in each group. Chronic competition often affects stress and may therefore have long-term consequences for fitness, but no studies have yet investigated whether intrasexual competition has effects of this kind and, in particular, whether it affects rates of reproductive senescence. Here, we use long-term data from a wild population of meerkats to test whether reproductive success and senescence in dominant females are affected by the degree of intrasexual competition experienced prior to dominance acquisition. Females that experienced greater competition had lower breeding success and higher rates of reproductive senescence. Furthermore, females that were evicted from the group more frequently as subordinates had lower breeding success when dominant. We conclude that the intense intrasexual competition between females in cooperatively breeding groups may carry fitness costs over a longer period than is usually recognised.