Fussy eating prevents mongoose family feuds

March 14, 2018

Mongooses living in large groups develop "specialist" diets so they don't have to fight over food, new research shows.

Banded mongooses cooperate closely but are also prone to violence - both between groups and within them - and competition for food increases as a group grows.

To get round this, individual mongooses find a dietary "niche", according to researchers from the universities of Exeter and Roehampton. Group living has advantages and disadvantages, and the findings suggest specialisation is one way to prevent groups being torn apart by fighting.

"Social animals can gain many benefits from group living, but they also suffer from competition over shared food resources," said Professor Michael Cant, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"Our research shows that banded mongooses respond to this competition by developing specialised foraging preferences.

"The study helps to explain why animals vary so much in their foraging behaviour, even when they live in the same place and have access to the same food."

The study examined wild banded mongooses in Uganda. Their diet includes millipedes, ants, termites and beetles, and sometimes vertebrates such as frogs, mice and reptiles.

The researchers tested opposing theories: that increased competition would lead to more varied diets, or that it would cause mongooses to find a dietary "niche".

They were able to compare individual mongoose diets by analysing the chemical composition of their whiskers, using the stable isotope facility at the Environment and Sustainability Institute, also at Exeter's Penryn Campus.

Rather than eating a wider range of foods, mongooses in large groups tended to become specialists in eating certain things - leaving other foodstuffs for different members of their groups.

"This is the first test of these competing ideas about the effect of social competition on diet in mammals," Dr Harry Marshall, Lecturer in Zoology at the Centre for Research in Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour at the University of Roehampton.

"This research confirms the hypothesis that mongooses adopt niche dietary preferences in response to competition from within their social groups.

"The findings suggest that group living may be one of the processes that promotes greater specialisation."

The findings are part of the Banded Mongoose Research Project, which has been running in Uganda for more than 20 years.

The paper, published in the journal Ecology Letters, is entitled: "Intragroup competition predicts individual foraging specialisation in a group-living mammal."

University of Exeter

Related Diet Articles from Brightsurf:

What's for dinner? Dolphin diet study
More evidence has emerged to support stricter coastal management, this time focusing on pollution and overfishing in the picturesque tourist waters off Auckland in New Zealand.

Can your diet help protect the environment?
If Americans adhere to global dietary recommendations designed to reduce the impact of food production and consumption, environmental degradation could be reduced by up to 38%, according to a new paper published in the journal Environmental Justice.

Diet may help preserve cognitive function
According to a recent analysis of data from two major eye disease studies, adherence to the Mediterranean diet - high in vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil -- correlates with higher cognitive function.

Diet quality of young people in US
This observational study used national survey data from young people up to age 19 to estimate the overall diet quality of children and teens in the United States and to explore how diet quality has changed from 1999 to 2016.

The keto diet can lead to flu-like symptoms during the first few weeks on the diet
A ketogenic diet can lead to several flu-like symptoms within the first few weeks on the diet.

Reconstructing the diet of fossil vertebrates
Paleodietary studies of the fossil record are impeded by a lack of reliable and unequivocal tracers.

Your gums reveal your diet
Sweet soft drinks and lots of sugar increase the risk of both dental cavities and inflammation of the gums -- known as periodontal diseases -- and if this is the case, then healthy eating habits should be prioritized even more.

Poor diet can lead to blindness
An extreme case of 'fussy' or 'picky' eating caused a young patient's blindness, according to a new case report published today [2 Sep 2019] in Annals of Internal Medicine.

New research on diet and supplements during pregnancy and beyond
The foods and nutrients a woman consumes while pregnant have important health implications for her and her baby.

Special issue: Diet and Health
Diet has major effects on human health. In this special issue of Science, 'Diet and Health,' four Reviews explore the connections between what we eat and our well-being, as well as the continuing controversies in this space.

Read More: Diet News and Diet Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.