Reproductive conflict is rife in vertebrate societies. A key focus of my work has been investigating the diverse tactics that male and female meerkats employ to maximise their reproductive success given their positions within society: prospecting, dispersal, evictions and infanticide

Reproductive Conflict in Meerkat Societies

Published findings to date include:


Reproductive Conflict and Prospecting among Males


Mares, R., Bateman, A.W., English, S., Clutton-Brock, T.H., Young, A.J. (2014)

Timing of pre-dispersal prospecting is influenced by environmental, social and state-dependent factors in meerkats

Animal Behaviour


Mares R., Young A.J., Clutton-Brock T.H. (2012)
Individual contributions to territory defence in a cooperative breeder: weighing up the benefits and costs

Proceedings of the Royal Society B


Mares R., Young A.J., Levesque D., Harrison N., Clutton-Brock T.H. (2011)
Responses to intruder scents in the cooperatively breeding meerkat: sex and social status differences

Behavioral Ecology


Young A.J. & Monfort S.L. (2009)

Stress and the costs of extra-territorial prospecting in a social mammal

Biology Letters 5: 439-441


Young A.J., Spong G. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2007)

Subordinate male meerkats prospect for extra-group paternity: alternative reproductive tactics in a cooperative mammal
Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274: 1603-1609

(Covered by Science, New Scientist and the wider press)


Young A.J., Carlson A.A. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2005)
Trade-offs between extra-territorial prospecting and helping in a cooperative mammal

Animal Behaviour 70: 829-837


Reproductive Conflict among Females


Clutton-Brock, T.H., Hodge, S.J., Flower, T.P., Spong, G., Young, A.J. (2010)

Adaptive suppression of subordinate reproduction in cooperative mammals

American Naturalist 176: 664-673


Young A.J., Monfort S.L. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2008)

Physiological suppression among female meerkats: a role for subordinate restraint due to the threat of infanticide?

Hormones & Behavior 53:131-139


Young A.J., Carlson A.A., Monfort S.L., Russell A.F., Bennett N.C. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2006)

Stress and the suppression of subordinate reproduction in cooperatively breeding meerkats

Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 103: 12005-12010

(Covered by Nature, Science, Science News, Discovery and the wider press)


Young A.J. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2006)
Infanticide by subordinates influences reproductive sharing in cooperatively breeding meerkats

Biology Letters 2: 385-387

(covered by Science, National Geographic, the Daily Telegraph and the wider press)


Carlson A.A., Young A.J., Russell A.F., Bennett N.C, McNeilly A.S. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2004)
Hormonal correlates of dominance in cooperative meerkats (Suricata suricatta)

Hormones & Behavior 46: 141-150


The Benefits and Endocrine Regulation of Cooperation


Russell A.F., Young A.J., Spong G., Jordan N.R. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2007)

Helpers increase the reproductive potential of offspring in cooperative meerkats
Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274: 513-524


Carlson A.A., Manser M.B., Young A.J., Russell A.F., Jordan N., McNeilly A.S. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2006)

Cortisol levels are positively associated with pup-feeding rates in male meerkats
Proceedings of the Royal Society B 273: 571-577


Carlson A.A., Russell A.F., Young A.J., Jordan N., McNeilly A.S. & Clutton-Brock T.H. (2006)
Elevated prolactin levels immediately precede decisions to babysit by meerkat helpers

Hormones & Behavior 50: 94-100

My work has combined the Kalahari meerkat project’s longitudinal behavioural and life-history data with targeted behavioural and endocrine studies to investigate the reproductive tactics of dominants and subordinates. I have focused in particular on reproductive power struggles among females and prospecting and dispersal by males, coupled with work on inter-group conflict and lethal raiding. More recently, Rafael Mares completed his PhD on extra-territorial prospecting and territory defence under my joint supervision with Tim Clutton-Brock.


The Kalahari meerkat project is a long-term behavioural field study established in 1997 by Tim Clutton-Brock. The project has monitored the fates of 5-15 groups of habituated meerkats throughout this time, yielding high resolution long-term life-history and social behaviour data sets. More information on the project can be found here.

We also conduct research on an array of social mammals,
from singular & plural cooperative breeders to communal breeders: