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 Biology of a Meerkat

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★ ♥Kusuma♥ ★

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PostSubject: Biology of a Meerkat   Fri Feb 12, 2010 8:44 pm

This is for new members and visitors who have no idea how a meerkat behaves, or what a meerkat even is.
A meerkat is a small carnivore, about 12 inches when standing on it's hind legs. The scientific name of the south african meerkat (the ones in this rp) is Suricata Suricatta. It means marsh cat or rock cat. Of course being a member of the mongoose family means it isn't really a cat. Rolling Eyes If you have seen the movie the lion king, then you already know that meerkats like bugs to eat, such as beetles, millipedes, and even scorpions (meerkats are imune to the venom). They also eat some larger things like eggs, skinks, small tortises, and sometimes a small bird. Shocked Some meerkat predators include jackals, birds of prey and snakes will often hunt babies. Meerkats can live to be 10 years in the wild. Meerkat babies are called pups. Pups are born in the safty of a burrow, then when they are three weeks old, they are strong enough to leave the burrow and stand with the adults above ground, at four weeks thay can go foraging with the group. Meerkats live in matriarchal groups (led by a female). There is also a dominant male who often does most of the sentry duty and chasing off rovers. He fathers the dominant female's pups. Only the dominant pair are allowed to breed, subordinantes (not leaders) can be punished for becoming parents, for some subordinantes have been known to kill a dominant's pups to give their's a better chance for survival.
I hope this helps those who are new and didn't watch Meerkat Manor that much if at all. Good luck surviving. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Biology of a Meerkat   Fri Feb 12, 2010 8:59 pm

Can I add?
-The Pregnancy perriod of a meerkat is roughly 70 days, or 2-3 months. During this time, the female becomes more aggressive than usual. As Kusuma said, the dominant pair reserve breeding rights, and have about three litters a year. Pups are born during the wet season, which is when fod is more easier to get. If a female becomes pregnant during the dry season, she is likely to abort (born prematurely) or the litter is lost within it's first days. However, some litters have survived in the dry season... the number of pups in the litter range from 1-7, though it is commonly 3 or 4.
-While foraging, each meerkat takes it's turn at sentry duty, to keep a look out for predators. Meerkats have over seventy calls, and each call is for a different predator. They also have a call called the 'watchman's song', which lets the other meerkats know that he/she is on guard. When finished, they finish their 'song' and another meerkat fills in their place.
-Meerkats are extremely territorial. If a rival meerkat is found on their land, it is commonly chased off. Sometimes, a meerkat group (called a mob or a gang) will invade another gangs land and raid their burrows, often resulting in the death of their pups and babysitter. The dominant female will also evict females that she feels are a threat to her, particularily those who have had pups before, and if spotted the whole group will chase them off. Lone meerkats rarely survive, so evicted females will join up and try to form a new group. Males are rarely evicted, but leave voluntarily to try and mate with unrelated females (called roving), or join up with unrelated females to start a new group. But, many new groups die off within a year of formation.

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PostSubject: Re: Biology of a Meerkat   Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:44 pm

May I add-


Meerkats rarely kill each other in group to group contact. They can leave some nasty wounds, but almost never kill anyone.
When a roving male meerkat is approaching a group and caught by the males of that group, they can inflict very nasty wounds. Sometimes not all rovers make it back.
Dominant Males do not evict any Subordinate Males, they most likely leave on their own to go roving, and later return to their natal group or are accepted into another.
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PostSubject: Re: Biology of a Meerkat   Tue May 18, 2010 8:13 pm

Some other things I read on FKMP-

-Only 1 out of four pups on average make it to the age of nine months old. And a nondominant may easily end up killed within 3 years of life. However, it is knosw that siblings of dominants also tend to live to a whole age.
-Dominance usually lasts about two to three years (31 months) Females fight much harder than males do to become dominant. A females usually keep their dominant status longer than the males do, and females also show more physical changes when they become dominant, they become heavier and more aggressive. Males ften show very little change with dominance, other than the two mucles on the top of their head enlarge.
-It is known that males who rove tend to be far worse at caring for pups than those who don't rove. Meerkats don't decipline those who don't care for the pups, they simply care for the pups themselves to make up for the lack of care from those who don't.
-Also, meerkats, like almost every other mammal, grow a winter coat and shed it in the spring. When winter approaches, their coat doubles in thickness and length. (That's why some meerkats are more fluffy than others in pictures, it's because they were taken in different seasons.)
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PostSubject: Re: Biology of a Meerkat   Sun May 31, 2015 5:12 am

((I thought this would make certain things a little bit easier to read up on.. I've done some research and elaborated on meerkats, and added some of the advice provided by you guys in. This, of course, could use some modifying and fixing, but again I just thought this would be something you guys could use, reference from, improve, etc...))


Biology of a Meerkat


Basic Info

    Suricata suricatta (more commonly referred to as a Meerkat) is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. The meerkat dwells in southern Africa, generally living in groups (called mobs) with up to 20 members- Though some families will grow to have 50+ members. The average lifespan of a wild meerkat is 6-10 years. A meerkat is considered a pup until 3 months of age, as juveniles until 6 months, and as young adults until 12 months.

- -


Behavior

    Meerkats are burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day, except when they need to avoid the heat of the afternoon. There are 2-4 main burrows in a territory, but also many 'bolt holes' scattered about which provide temporary shelter from threats. Meerkats are very social, and will almost always die if they live alone. Mob members often groom eachother to establish relationships and to help keep the parasite numbers down. The dominant pair often scent-mark subordinates of the group to express their authority.

    Sentries often find a high place to look out for predators. If a predator is spotted, a sentry will emit alarm calls based on the type of threat. The foraging meerkats will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes- but if one isn't near, they will hide under bushes or logs.

    Meerkats also babysit the young in the group- more often females than males. Female meerkats that have never produced offspring of their own can surprisingly lactate to feed the dominant pair's young. Babysitters are quick to protect the pups from any threats, regardless of the situation. This often endangers their own lives. On warning of any danger, the babysitter will take the young underground to safety and is fiercely ready to defend them if the danger follows.


Vocalization
  Chirrup, trill, growl, squeak, peep, bark...

Normal Calls
    Meerkat calls may carry specific meanings, with particular calls indicating the type of predator and the urgency of the situation. In non-threatening situations, meerkats will make recruitment calls which summon their members to assist them. Moving calls instigate moving to a new location. Location calls are consistent grunts and soft barks- this helps keep the group together. Also, the 'Watchman's Song' is often 'sang' by meerkats on duty to let their mob know that they're watching out for danger.

Alarm Calls
    Panic calls and alarm calls vary depending on the situation. When a predator is spotted in the distance, alarm calls are generally low to medium. Panic calls are generally emitted when a predator is spotted close or a rival mob is spotted. Meerkats respond differently after hearing a terrestrial predator alarm call than after hearing an aerial predator alarm call. For example, after hearing a terrestrial predator alarm call, such as a bark from a jackal,  meerkats are most likely to seek shelter and scan the area. On the other hand, after hearing a screech from an aerial predator, meerkats are most likely to crouch down and look towards the sky.

- -


Mob VS Mob

    Typically, there are more than a few mobs in an area. All mobs strictly mark their territory, and fight ferociously to defend it. Meerkats rarely kill each other in group to group contact. They can cause each other heavy damage, but almost never kill one another. When a roving male meerkat is approaching a group and caught by the males of that group, they can inflict very nasty wounds. Sometimes not all rovers make it back. Dominant Males do not evict any Subordinate Males, they most likely leave on their own to go roving, and later return to their native group or are accepted into another.
    It isn't uncommon for invasions to take place. In quests for more territory, some mobs may charge into another territory and claim some of it. If any pups are found in burrows, they are killed as soon as they are found- babysitters included.

- -


Lifecycle

 Pregnancy
    During gestation, a female meerkat has a tendency of being more aggressive. After 10 weeks of pregnancy, she will normally give birth to 3-4 pups- though she can deliver up to 7 babies.

 Newborn
    The first few days after being born are the most dangerous ones for a meerkat, as delivered litters are often wiped out by other pregnant meerkats who feel the need to raise their own litters' chance of survival. Thus, the dominant female will normally evict other pregnant meerkats in order to keep her own litter safe. Pup sitters or babysitters stay with the pups to protect them, especially in their mothers absence. In many occasions, other females will lactate for the pups, especially after aborting or losing their own litter.

 Emerging
    Pups first emerge from the burrow at 2-3 weeks. Weighing almost 100 grams a this point, they will continue to retreat to the tunnels often, being closely guarded by pupsitters. Usually at this time the group will move the pups to a different burrow.

 Learning
    As the pups near the age of 4 weeks, they will begin to accompany the adults on foraging trips. They are gradually weaned as they learn to dig up and eat insects alongside their mob mates- but usually this is done without much success. Therefore, the pups will follow adults and give loud begging calls and harass them until they give up their prey (which is normally dead to make things easier) to the pup. As they get a little older, the pups will learn how to survive. They'll learn how to handle prey and to react correctly to other predators and animals. Nearly everything there is to know is learned by observing the adults.

 The Big One
    Both male and female meerkats reach maturity around the age of 1 year old. Female meerkats normally do not give successful births until they are 2 years old. The year old male meerkats sometimes join older, more experienced male groups on roving expeditions. Yearlings begin to contribute to the important tasks in the group, such as pupsitting and sentry duty- although roving males tend to be much worse at pupsitting than those who don't rove.

 Adulthood
    Older meerkats have an internal matriarchal social system. This means, all female meerkats inherently seek dominance in their groups, and the urge varies for each meerkat. The dominant female of the group is the mother of up to 80% of the pups born in the group. Her pups are protected and reared by all the members. The dominant female prevents pregnant subordinate females from reproduction by evicting them so that they either abort of abandon their litters- and they are later welcomed back. Male meerkats usually leave their native mob in order to find mating opportunities with non-related females- which is the point of the roving groups. Adult meerkats normally weigh 1.5 pounds, and stand nearly foot tall.

 Dominance (If a meerkat should make it here)
   Female meerkats fight much harder than males do to become dominant, and usually keep their dominant status longer than the males do. Females also show more physical changes when they become dominant, they become heavier and more aggressive. Males often show very little change with dominance, other than the two muscles on the top of their head enlarge. Dominant males will defend the group's territory by scent-marking and fighting for it, always supported by the group. They will also defend the non-related females in the group from advances of other males. This makes roving sometimes a little tough- but some males are content with staying in their own mob and avoiding the whole 'mating' thing. The average dominance span of a female is 31 months, while a males is only 17 months on average.

- -


Foraging

    Every morning, the dominant female of a group leads her mob out to areas rich with insects to forage. If any pups are present, a pupsitter or two will stay behind to protect them. The meerkats will sometimes forage till the afternoon, after which they return to their burrow.


Diet

 Insects
    The meerkat's main diet is made up of insects. Beetles, ants, centipedes, grubs, flies, spiders, millipedes, and even scorpions are fair game. Meerkats are immune to scorpion venom, but even still, will chew off the stinger just in case.

 Reptiles
    Lizards, snakes, and their eggs are also on the menu- though snakes can be a challenge, and are usually passed by.

 Small Birds and Mammals
    If they are caught, meerkats will sometimes dine on small birds, mice, shrews, and bird eggs- Though these aren't very common instances.

- -
 

Predators

    The meerkat has many predators, and a different alarm call for each.

 Birds of Prey
    Eagles and hawks (especially martial eagles) won't hesitate to get their talons in a juicy meerkat. Luckily, bushes and other things to hide under provide the perfect cover- that is, if an alarm call is issued in time.

 Snakes
    Venomous snakes are also sometimes a major issue for meerkats. It's easy for one to slide unnoticed into a burrow and discover pups underground. If spotted, the entire mob will gang up on a snake, crowding it and barking at it to drive it away. If bitten, a meerkat usually has a 50/50 chance of survival, as some bites are more fatal than others.

 Other Predators
    Though birds of prey and snakes are generally the main threat to meerkats, there are more. Jackals, servals, and other predators won't hesitate to chase after a meerkat.

- -


Mutually-Beneficial Relationships

    Meerkats will sometimes forage alongside a herd of gazelle or other herbivores, which are very attentive to danger and so alert the mob if danger appears. Meerkats are also known to share their burrows with the Yellow Mongoose and ground squirrel.
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