Do Mongoose and Human Leaders Have Anything in Common?

in StemSocial4 months ago (edited)

Mob of Banded Mongooses
Banded_mongoose,_Mungos_mungo_subsp._grisonax Ryanvanhuyssteen 3.0.png
Image credit: Ryanvanhuyssteen. Used under CC 3.0 license. Taken at Ingwelala, Umbabat Nature Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Many people are familiar with Jane Goodall's chimpanzee study. Goodall spent years observing the chimps, and with that experience enriched the world with an understanding of our close primate relatives. While there is no Goodall of the mongoose universe, there is The Banded Mongoose Research Project, which began in 1995 and is still ongoing. Much (though not all) of what I write here is derived from that project.

The mongoose makes for a very interesting study because it is such a highly social animal. It is a species in which cooperative rearing of the young takes place. One of the reasons this happens is because birthing, in the mongoose universe, is a synchronized event (called birth synchrony). All mongooses in a pack give birth at approximately the same time. There is, in essence, a group litter.

Mongooses at Dresden Zoo, With Apparent Juvenile
banded mongoose with apparent juvenile zoo Fiver, der Hellseher 4.0.png
Image credit: Fiver, der Hellseher. Used under CC 4.0 license

Professor Michael Cant of the University of Exeter suggests that this group nurturing is in essence selfish. Since there is no way to distinguish one's infant from others (described as the veil of ignorance), all are cared for equally. Group birthing is insurance against infanticide, which is common among mongooses.

Female mongooses are apparently quite aggressive in securing the survival of their own offspring. Killing off the progeny of other females is one way to reduce competition.

If killing the offspring of competitors sounds extreme, read on. Dominant females go to even greater measures.

War to Improve Reproductive Success
Because the mongoose lives in a tight-knit social pack, mating opportunities are limited. In order to avoid excessive inbreeding, dominant females sometimes look outside the pack for mates. However, they don't go courting. They provoke war.

The video below shows one of these battles. The activity is quite gruesome and if you don't have a strong stomach you might not want to watch the whole thing. I didn't. Video by: BBC Earth

As the pack engages in war, with males predominating and suffering most of the deaths and injuries, the female that started the battle strays off. She looks for a male from the opposing force. She wants a mate. She wants to enrich the gene pool of her offspring, and this is one way to do it. All in service of her offspring's survival.

There are other mechanisms dominant females use to insure that their offspring will be favored. Since rearing of the young is communal and it is not possible to identify the offspring of individuals, all the young born at the same time will be protected. However, if a mongoose gives birth early, her offspring may be killed when she goes out to forage for food.

Banded Mongoose at the Entrance to a Den
Banded_mongoose_at_entrance_to_den Alistair Ian Spearing Ortiz 4.0.png
Image credit: Alistair Ian Spearing Ortiz. Used under CC 4.0 license

Likewise, if a pup is born after the group, it has diminished chances of survival because it will be smaller than the others and will not be able to compete as successfully.

Eviction
To further reduce competition for her offspring, a dominant female will force other females to leave the pack. An interesting aspect of these forced evictions is that usually family members are chosen. Researchers suggest that this makes sense. It seems an evicted family member does not resist as ferociously as a non member, and thus there is likely to be less damage inflicted during the struggle.

Sometimes males are targeted for eviction. New packs may be formed by evicted mongooses (that survive the struggle) or by mongooses that voluntarily disperse from the pack.

Banded Mongoose Pile
Mongoose_pile Mathias Appel.png
Image credit: Mathias Appel. Used under Public domain license.

Compensatory Nurturing
Communal birthing not only insures that all pups will receive equal opportunity to thrive. It also insures that the more vulnerable pups will receive compensatory care, in order to help them catch up with their peers.

In one study, a group of expectant female mongooses was divided into two groups. Half the mongooses were given less food during pregnancy. As a result the pups from these undernourished mothers were smaller. When it came to feeding the group litter, however, the collective mothers gave preferential care to the smaller pups until they were as large as their litter mates.

Banded Mongoose Nursing a Pup
Junge_Zebramanguste_(Zoo_Dresden)_(3) banded mongoos with pup Fiver, der Hellseher 4.0.png
Image credit: Fiver, der Hellseher. Used under CC 4.0 License.

Exploitative Leadership Among Mongoose--And Humans

I began the blog with a question: Do Mongoose and Human Leaders Have Anything in Common? According to observers of mongoose and human behavior the answer is a resounding, Yes! In both species there is exploitative leadership.

Quoting from an article that appeared in the journal, Biological Sciences: "Our findings suggest that the decoupling of leaders from the costs that they incite amplifies the destructive nature of intergroup conflict." In both mongoose and human societies, leaders provoke war which wreaks havoc on others in their group, but from which the leaders derive benefit.

Banded Mongooses Play Fighting
mongoose play fighting  Postdlf  3.0 license.png
Image credit: Postdlf. Used under CC 3.0 license.

Quoting from another article that appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, biologist Michael Cant (associated with the Banded Mongoose Project) states: "A classic explanation for warfare in human societies is leadership by exploitative individuals who reap the benefits of conflict while avoiding the costs...In this study, we show that leadership of this kind can also explain the evolution of severe collective violence in certain animal societies."

I have tried to find other social species (vertebrates) in which this pattern of leadership exists, but so far have not been able to identify one. If any of my readers discover one, please let me know in the comments below.

More Information About the Fascinating Banded Mongoose

The banded mongoose is a close cousin of the meerkat. As a matter of fact, the word mongoose can also be used to describe a meerkat. However, the meerkat has not been observed to engage in exploitative leadership. As a matter of fact, this small mongoose has been described as altruistic.

Meerkat Sentinel With Three Young
Meerkat_(Suricata_suricatta)_with_3_young charles J. Sharp 4.0.png
Image credit: Charles J. Sharp. Used under CC 4.0 license.

The banded mongoose is a member of the Herpestidae family. There are 34 mongoose species in this family.

Life Span, Litter Size and Frequency
Banded mongoose infants do not have good prospects of survival. Less than 50% make it to 3 months. However, adult banded mongooses live to about 10 in the wild, and in captivity may live to 17.

The banded mongoose may deliver four litters a year. Each litter may have between 2 and 10 pups. The pups are born blind.

Snake Predator
The banded mongoose is a snake hunter. The mongoose seems to have a hankering for snake meat and is quite skilled at attacking snakes that are venomous and large. Not only does the mongoose have an excellent hunting technique, but also has limited vulnerability to snake venom.

In this YouTube video by National Geographic, a mongoose attacks and vanquishes a cobra. If you are squeamish, do not watch:

Mutualistic Relationship With the Warthog
The banded mongoose and the warthog have a mutualistic relationship. The warthog has pests, such as mites and ticks that need to be cleaned off. The mongoose loves to eat these critters. Below is a picture of banded mongooses crawling over and grooming a reclining warthog.

Banded Mongooses Grooming a Warthog
mongoose grooming warthog.png
William Stephens. Used under CC 4.0 License.

In this YouTube video from BBC you can watch the warthog invite grooming from a mongoose pack:

Mongoose Bite is Dangerous
This last bit of information is about the mongoose, and not specifically the banded mongoose. According to Wikipedia, the mongoose is native to southern Europe, Asia and Africa. Although being bitten by a mongoose is a rare occurrence, it does happen. In this article from the Boston Medical Journal the mongoose bite is characterized as 'dangerous'. Besides the risk of rabies, there is also a risk of streptococcal infection, which can quickly lead to death if not treated properly. The woman describe in the article was in her kitchen when a mongoose attack occurred. She did die rather quickly because appropriate antibiotics were not administered.

Mongooses Breaking Eggs
A favorite meal for the mongoose is eggs. Apparently, egg-cracking technique is a skill passed down from parent to offspring. Some mongooses break eggs by biting them. Some break eggs by picking them up and smashing them against the ground or a rock. It seems the behavior is learned as a juvenile and is maintained throughout life.
This YouTube video by Steve Mcurrach shows the mongoose egg-cracking technique.

Conclusion

War is in the news these days. War is always with us it seems, somewhere in the world. When I read about mongoose warfare and exploitative leadership, I had to write a blog. Perhaps by considering the behavior of these mammals we might gain insight into our own natures. Maybe, maybe not. In any event, my research was interesting and I have enjoyed sharing what I learned with my readers.

Health and peace to all.

accent redheadpei purple moon.gif

Sources

Accent GIF at the end of the blog derived from a fractal (Purple Moon) posted in the LMAC Image Gallery #LIL, by @redheadpei.
image.png

1.https://biologydictionary.net/mongoose/
2.https://www.livescience.com/52565-mongoose.html
3.https://newatlas.com/banded-mongoose-targets-female-family-4.for-eviction/49201/
5.https://phys.org/news/2017-11-female-mongooses-pups-rivals.html
6.https://phys.org/news/2017-04-banded-mongooses-family-members-eviction.html
7.https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/warmongering-female-mongooses-lead-their-groups-battle-mate-enemy-180976265/
8.https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/mongooses-pile-on-warthogs-to-groom-them/
9.https://www.psychnewsdaily.com/mongooses-have-a-fair-society-because-moms-care-for-all-the-groups-pups-as-their-own/
10.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16271972/
11.https://www.inverse.com/science/mongoose-war-tactics
12.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4543268/
13.https://lisbdnet.com/what-do-you-call-a-group-of-mongoose/#What_is_the_collective_noun_for_meerkats
14.https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/22585935/jane-goodall-chimpanzees-animal-intelligence-human-nature
15.http://socialisresearch.org/about-the-banded-mongoose-project/
16.https://phys.org/news/2019-06-meerkats-mongooses-cooperative-approach-pups.html
17.https://www.newscientist.com/article/2259280-female-banded-mongooses-start-wars-so-they-can-mate-with-rival-males/
18.https://www.science.org/content/article/scienceshot-why-mongoose-moms-synchronize-births
19.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227677122_Eviction_and_dispersal_in_co-operatively_banded_mongoose_Mungos_mungo
20.https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2003745117
21.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/347469409_Exploitative_leaders_incite_intergroup_warfare_in_a_social_mammal
22.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130204220845.htm
23.https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/banded-mongoose
24.https://www.denverzoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Banded_Mongoose.pdf
25.https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15320642-500-science-mongooses-secret-is-to-copy-its-prey/
26.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongoose

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As a starting note for this comment, I would like to mention that I remember an older blog of yours on chimps. This was however quite a while ago. Maybe a year or more… Anyway, the topic of the day does not concern chimps, but mongooses. And here I must admit that except for the name of the animal, I had no clue oh what they were and how they lived. Your blog was this very instructive!

In a few words, I have been definitely surprised by this animal. What an aggressive beast, with a behaviour that (almost) reaches human standards. I said “almost” because they only seem to hit each other, leaving the environment mostly intact. In contrast, we humans destroy everything… Somewhat, this blog fits thus very well in the current epoch (that I am afraid is by far not ended).

It was very nice to read this, and I wish you a very nice end of the week. It was a long time I didn't read anything from you, and it was a real pleasure.

Thank you, @lemouth, for your kind words.

Of course war was on my mind when I wrote this. How can it not be?

I said “almost” because they only seem to hit each other, leaving the environment mostly intact. In contrast, we humans destroy everything…

😟

When I read and write about other species, such as the mongoose, it instructs me about my own species. For example, I'd never heard the term 'exploitative leadership' before. And yet, this is so apt. It helps to clarify my fuzzy thinking. I knew war exploited people, but I wasn't able to articulate the process so well. One of the most influential books I ever read (as a college student)--it's actually a play--was Mutter Courage by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht recognized the mongoose in us.

As for blogging activity: I've been trying. This is my first real blog (besides posting pictures) in weeks. It's wonderful to post in the StemSocial community again. I don't have the heart for art right now.

I hope your family mends quickly. Challenging for the children, I think, to live through this. A large chunk of their lives have been lived under the shadow of pandemic.

Be well, and peaceful.

I remember the name of Bertolt Brecht from high school too. But I only remember his name... We analysed from texts from him for sure... But that was too long ago... Anyway, my personal conclusion from your blog is that mongoose are very close to us in behaviour, as already written. The thing I didn't think about up to now is that it works both at large and small scales... Too bad for us :/

As for blogging activity: I've been trying. This is my first real blog (besides posting pictures) in weeks. It's wonderful to post in the StemSocial community again. I don't have the heart for art right now.

It was a really nice blog to read and you can be sure STEMsocial was calmly waiting for you :)

I hope your family mends quickly. Challenging for the children, I think, to live through this. A large chunk of their lives have been lived under the shadow of pandemic.

It is worse, from this morning. My big boy is now positive too, without any symptom (but that's enough from being forbidden to go to middle school). I will need to re-organise my agenda, again... At least it makes me laugh (for now).

Have a nice upcoming week-end!

My big boy is now positive too
😟

I hope he remains symptom free, and your wife bounces back. Stay well, @lemouth

Today is better... let's see now :)

:)

Aww, so beautiful this little animal looks, but how aggressive it is! 😦 It is also dangerous because of all the diseases it transmits with its bite, I don't think I would give them food near my house.

I don't know of other animal species that the leader exploits his followers so much, but a few days ago I saw a documentary where that shows how the North Korean leader exploits his people for his personal enrichment. It is unbelievable that slavery exists in these times and is also promoted by a leader of a country. But that is another topic.

I loved the videos you shared especially because they are short and to the point of what you want to show, it's funny the relationship with the wild boars, that reminds me of the relationship between the remoras, whales and sharks.

Very educational article my friend!

Thank you for reading that long blog, my friend @mballesteros. When I read that humans and mongoose have this dreadful trait in common I had to learn more. Exploitative leadership. It's a sobering concept, isn't it?

Mongooses are adorable...and ferocious. Certainly ferocious in protecting the survival of their young.

I looked up remora and sharks: amazing. Hope to see more pictures of those lovely dogs you introduced to us. Animal blogs are my favorite.

Take care of yourself my friend, and be happy.

The Bible was right! Females are troublemakers. :)

Excellent article that shows some of the intricacies of non-human mammalian behavior. The study of 'simpler' organisms does provide an insight into our own more complex behavior. While we are an extremely adaptable species, we do so on the back of fundamental behavioral structures that can be gleaned in other species.

Those mongooses (mongoosi?) are ferocious little rascals. Though I could not help but notice that some of them wore collars in the video, which I imagine is part of some scientific research. To what extent are these collars influencing their behavior? In their own way of thinking, the mongoose might consider it a mark of something like hierarchical position, blemish, etc. Does it make them more aggressive? If I had a collar around my neck, I'd probably be unhappy too :)

Wonderful and well researched piece. 😀

Thank you for a great comment. I also noticed the collar. Aren't there studies about how the very fact of being in a study changes the outcome? Observation in itself affects the study participants. Wearing a big fat collar would seem to be an impediment of some kind to me, or stigma.

The females are troublemakers, but really, smart, aren't they :)) Ferocious mothers, also.

We are all focuses on the Ukraine war now, but there is always war. Just happens in parts of the world we don't relate to as closely.

Hope you are enjoying spring. Spring and fall. My favorite seasons.

Aren't there studies about how the very fact of being in a study changes the outcome?

Yea, researchers have to be painstakingly detailed in their experiments, particularly with human and non-human animals. In some studies, results that were attributed to animal behavior was actually the consequence of the laboratory setting and the behavior of the researchers themselves. Some limited research is better than none at all, however, and the example you showed is fantastic. Feisty females!

Spring at last! 🌻

A wonderful documentary. I didn’t know much about the mongoose until I read your interesting post, A.G. @agmoore. Amazing they are snake hunters. Since I have the snake phobia that was an impressive fact. Eeeeek!

Thanks for using my fractal. Love the animation.

Have a wonderful evening my friend. 😊

I thought of you when I wrote about the snakes. Amazing the way these critters attack them, isn't it? When I first started the article I thought the mongoose a cute creature. Maybe so, but ferocious.

I loved your fractal and wanted to include something from LIL. Since we didn't have any mongoose pictures :)) your fractal worked well.

Be well and peaceful my friend, @redheadpei. Thank you for visiting.

That war looks very much like how groups of humans behave and move in such circumstances (I don't mean an army, but groups of regular people who decide to fight, e.g. fans of opposing soccer teams).

I can hardly read anything about animals and not find it fascinating. Lovely post.

That war looks very much like how groups of humans behave and move in such circumstances

Back in the 50s and 60s there were movies that showed street gangs fighting in New York City. Ex: West Side Story (with a lot of dancing), The Wanderers. You're right. It looks just like the mongoose battle :))

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the great comment, @alexanderalexis. Hope you are well and life is peaceful for you.

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Greetings dear @agmoore, as I read your publication I wanted to know even more about this species, it is amazing that such a small animal can manage to survive against larger species, I think their success comes from the work they do as a team and together.

Wonderful delivery. Regards

Hello @madridbg,

I think you are right. They survive because they have a strong sense of community. Everything they do seems to be about the young in the group surviving. They are ferocious, but they are very strong.

Thank you for visiting, and for commenting. I appreciate your kind assessment of my blog.

These Mongoose species, do they exist in Africa because I haven't come by them before

They do exist in Africa. Check out this link that tells you where.

Amazing animals, aren't they? Thank you for visiting my blog.

The animal mongoose is so interesting, and also common with hunan? But you found it, thanks for sharing it with us, i like those video of fighting.

Thank you for visiting. Wasn't that video something. Quite feroious, aren't they?

Boss @agmoore, I have found you post to be so interesting this weekend but I would like to know one thing. "Do you think all pup or lets say mongooses receive equal opportunity to thrive?

Secondly, in actual sense, do you really mean that this animal has almost some vital characteristics of man?

Hello, @ezeemmanuel. Thank you for stopping by and thank you for your comment.

Mongoose pups do not have an equal chance to survive. Many of them don't make it out of infancy. And, mongooses and humans are very different. I don't know how close we are, genetically. However, they do display some traits that we display. By studying the mongoose, I can better understand that behavior in people.

Hope you have a great weekend!

❤️ thanks for your time...

Sometimes the beautiful appearance of animals is deceptive as it can cause infection with serious diseases. Almost all the creatures of the world have a much stronger immunity than the human being, who is considered the weakest being on earth

They do have a dangerous bite. It's not often they bite, but if they do medical treatment is necessary right away.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

It's pleasure, yes medical treatment is important but we must do it quickly
Good night 👍

What cute little guys!

!1UP

Thank you for the support. They are cute...and ferocious :)


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