My research into the evolution of cooperative behaviour uses the The University of Exeter's long-term Banded Mongoose Research Project in Uganda. Banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) are small mammals (< 2kg) that are found throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa. They live in multi-male, multi-females groups of usually around 20-30 individuals and exhibit high levels of cooperative pup care. Multiple females give birth to pups, usually on the same night, and this communal litter is subsequently cared for by other group members who are rarely the pups' direct relatives.
I have been exploring how past and present ecological conditions influence mongoose behaviour and survival. In a recent paper in Behavioral Ecology I showed that females mongooses were more susceptible to variable conditions than males. This resulted in males being more likely to engage in cooperative care of pups since there were fewer females around to try to mate with.
This unique biology allows mongoose pups' maternal (pre-natal) and social (post-natal) environment to be measured separately. I am using data on this to test how these components of pups' environment influences their cognition, learning and cooperative behaviour in later life.