Federica Amici, Montserrat C Mimó, Christoph von Borell, and Nereida Bueno-Guerra (2017)

Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) fail to prosocially donate food in an experimental set-up

Animal Cognition:1-8.

Although humans are usually believed to be prosocial, the evolutionary origins of prosociality are largely debated. One hypothesis is that cooperative breeding has been one major precursor to the emergence of prosociality. In vertebrates, however, experimental evidence of prosociality has been mainly gathered in non-human primates. In this study, we tested the cooperative breeding hypothesis in cooperative breeding meerkats (Suricata suricatta). In particualr, we tested whether meerkats take into account partners' benefits when distributing food rewards. Nine individuals were presented with two platforms baited with different food distributions (providing food to themselves, to a partner or both). In all conditions, the decision to operate the appartus was based on the presence of food on the subject's side, and not on the possible benefits to partners. Despite being cooperative breeders, meerkats in this study failed to be prosocial, suggesting that prosociality in this species may be limited to specific contexts.