Study reveals darkside of murderous meerkats

Meerkats on display at Edinburgh Zoo. A new study has revealed the animals have a sinister side. Pic: PA Photo/David Cheskin.
Meerkats on display at Edinburgh Zoo. A new study has revealed the animals have a sinister side. Pic: PA Photo/David Cheskin.
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THE “dark side” of meerkats – which sees them kill their grandchildren – has been revealed by scientists.

Edinburgh University research into the desert creatures – which live in groups with a dominant breeding pair and many adult helpers – shows the alpha female can flourish when she maintains the sole right to breed.

The study shows how this way of life, also found in animals such as ants and bees, can prove effective despite its sinister side.

Dominant meerkats control breeding within their group by banishing any other females who reproduce and killing their offspring to ensure plentiful resources for the alpha pair’s pups.

Dr Matthew Bell, who led the study, said: “The meerkat way of life is a paradox, in which alpha females will attack their daughters, banish them from the group and infanticise their offspring.

“Our study reveals that dominant animals are worse off when subordinates try to breed – explaining why they brutally suppress others. We expected this result, but its impact exceeded our expectations.”