Data from: Kin discrimination via odour in the cooperatively breeding banded mongoose
Kin discrimination is often beneficial for group-living animals as it aids in inbreeding avoidance and providing nepotistic help. In mammals, the use of olfactory cues in kin discrimination is widespread and may occur through learning the scents of individuals that are likely to be relatives, or by assessing genetic relatedness directly through assessing odour similarity (phenotype matching). We use scent presentations to investigate these possibilities in a wild population of the banded mongoose Mungos mungo, a cooperative breeder in which inbreeding risk is high and females breed communally, disrupting behavioural cues to kinship. We find that adults show heightened behavioural responses to unfamiliar (extra-group) scents than to familiar (within-group) scents. Interestingly, we found that responses to familiar odours, but not unfamiliar odours, varied with relatedness. This suggests that banded mongooses are either able to use an effective behavioural rule to identify likely relatives from within their group, or that phenotype matching is used in the context of within-group kin recognition but not extra-group kin recognition. In other cooperative breeders, familiarity is used within the group and phenotype matching may be used to identify unfamiliar kin. However, for the banded mongoose this pattern may be reversed, most likely due to their unusual breeding system which disrupts within-group behavioural cues to kinship.
Queen Elizabeth National Park