New research has found that meerkats do a kind of “war dance” to scare enemies and protect their territory.
According to the magazine Newsweek, a team of scientists analyzed the interactions between different groups of meerkats in the South African Kalahari for eleven years.
"Our work shows that interactions between these groups are never tolerant, that most involve some form of aggression and that a minority results in physical violence," said Mark Dyble, a University College London researcher who led the team.
In the study published In Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers explain that they observed ten groups of meerkats, consisting of an average of 20 animals. When they met, the team identified several combinations of six different behaviors in the 422 recorded interactions (which usually lasted about 20 minutes).
“Most of our research has focused on cooperation and how they work together to raise their children. However, there is another side. Meerkats are highly competitive and territorial, with regular aggression between groups, ”Dyble told the magazine.
The different types of behaviors documented were: initial observation of the rival group; persecution of rival group; performing a war dance; interaction retreat; dig the rival group's lair and maintain aggressive physical contact.
According to the study now published, about 65 percent of the interactions resulted in groups pursuing others or doing such a dance, in which mammals stick their tails in the air and stick their hair up. One possible reason for this, according to the publication, may be to make the group appear larger.
86% of the interactions ended with one of the two groups retreating before the fight actually took place. But 9% of these interactions ended in violent fights in which at least one meerkat eventually died.
“Most fights end after one group drives away the other. There is a clear advantage over group size – larger groups almost always win. Most aggression is initiated by the dominant male and female. The losing groups retreat towards the center of their territory, ”says the scientist.
“However, even when these interactions do not result in physical violence, this can have territorial consequences, with losing groups moving to burrows closer to the center of their territory and winners moving to burrows farther from the center. yours".
“Animal violence usually involves one individual fighting with another. This coordinated aggression between groups that we see in meerkats is quite rare and was once thought to be unique to humans. By understanding how and why these animals fight, we can gain clues about the evolution of violence and war in humans, ”concludes the researcher.