An intergenerational androgenic mechanism of female intrasexual competition in the cooperatively breeding meerkat.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Female intrasexual competition can be intense in cooperatively breeding species, with some dominant breeders (matriarchs) limiting reproduction in subordinates via aggression, eviction or infanticide. In males, such tendencies bidirectionally link to testosterone, but in females, there has been little systematic investigation of androgen-mediated behaviour within and across generations. In 22 clans of wild meerkats (Suricata suricatta), we show that matriarchs 1) express peak androgen concentrations during late gestation, 2) when displaying peak feeding competition, dominance behaviour, and evictions, and 3) relative to subordinates, produce offspring that are more aggressive in early development. Late-gestation antiandrogen treatment of matriarchs 4) specifically reduces dominance behaviour, is associated with infrequent evictions, decreases social centrality within the clan, 5) increases aggression in cohabiting subordinate dams, and 6) reduces offspring aggression. These effects implicate androgen-mediated aggression in the operation of female sexual selection, and intergenerational transmission of masculinised phenotypes in the evolution of meerkat cooperative breeding.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Drea, CM; Davies, CS; Greene, LK; Mitchell, J; Blondel, DV; Shearer, CL; Feldblum, JT; Dimac-Stohl, KA; Smyth-Kabay, KN; Clutton-Brock, TH

Published Date

  • December 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 12 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 7332 -

PubMed ID

  • 34921140

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8683399

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2041-1723

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2041-1723

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/s41467-021-27496-x


  • eng