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Reproductive control via eviction (but not the threat of eviction) in banded mongooses

Cant, Michael A; Hodge, Sarah J; Bell, Matthew B V; Gilchrist, Jason; Nichols, Hazel J


Michael A Cant

Sarah J Hodge

Matthew B V Bell

Hazel J Nichols


Considerable research has focused on understanding variation in reproductive skew in cooperative animal societies, but the pace of theoretical development has far outstripped empirical testing of the models. One major class of model suggests that dominant individuals can use the threat of eviction to deter subordinate reproduction (the ‘restraint’ model), but this idea remains untested. Here, we use long-term behavioural and genetic data to test the assumptions of the restraint model in banded mongooses (Mungos mungo), a species in which subordinates breed regularly and evictions are common. We found that dominant females suffer reproductive costs when subordinates breed, and respond to these costs by evicting breeding subordinates from the group en masse, in agreement with the assumptions of the model. We found no evidence, however, that subordinate females exercise reproductive restraint to avoid being evicted in the first place. This means that the pattern of reproduction is not the result of a reproductive ‘transaction’ to avert the threat of eviction. We present a simple game theoretical analysis that suggests that eviction threats may often be ineffective to induce pre-emptive restraint among multiple subordinates and predicts that threats of eviction (or departure) will be much more effective in dyadic relationships and linear hierarchies. Transactional models may be more applicable to these systems. Greater focus on testing the assumptions rather than predictions of skew models can lead to a better understanding of how animals control each other's reproduction, and the extent to which behaviour is shaped by overt acts versus hidden threats.


Cant, M. A., Hodge, S. J., Bell, M. B. V., Gilchrist, J., & Nichols, H. J. (2010). Reproductive control via eviction (but not the threat of eviction) in banded mongooses. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277, 2219-2226.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 25, 2010
Online Publication Date Mar 17, 2010
Publication Date 2010-07
Deposit Date Apr 3, 2014
Publicly Available Date Mar 11, 2020
Print ISSN 0962-8452
Electronic ISSN 1471-2954
Publisher Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 277
Pages 2219-2226
Keywords reproductive conflict; skew; cooperation; punishment;
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Reproductive control via eviction (but not the threat of eviction) in banded mongooses (242 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2010 The Royal Society
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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