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Helpers(?) At the Nest in the Mongolian Gerbil, Meriones Unguiculatus

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Mongolian gerbil families were observed in artificial burrow systems and the effects of the presence of juveniles and the number of 'underground' nest areas were noted. Juveniles interacted with infants and increased their time in the maternal nest during the rearing of the infants as did the fathers. Parents spent less time self-grooming and licking the infants if juveniles were present. The fathers appeared to act paternally mainly towards the juveniles but also supplied the "underground" area with food. These observations were congruent with the prediction that juveniles act as helpers at the nest. A second experiment, however, indicated that juveniles retarded the development of the infants, possibly by stealing milk. The parents appeared to minimise the detrimental effects that juveniles had on the development of the infants and yet ensured that the juveniles remain within the family group until they were old enough to fend for themselves. The number of nest areas had little effect on these social interactions.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Zoology, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, U.K.

10.1163/156853984X00218
/content/journals/10.1163/156853984x00218
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/content/journals/10.1163/156853984x00218
1984-01-01
2016-10-01

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