Teaching in Wild Meerkats

  title={Teaching in Wild Meerkats},
  author={Alex Thornton and Katherine McAuliffe},
  pages={227 - 229}
Despite the obvious benefits of directed mechanisms that facilitate the efficient transfer of skills, there is little critical evidence for teaching in nonhuman animals. Using observational and experimental data, we show that wild meerkats (Suricata suricatta) teach pups prey-handling skills by providing them with opportunities to interact with live prey. In response to changing pup begging calls, helpers alter their prey-provisioning methods as pups grow older, thus accelerating learning… 

Lessons from animal teaching.

Variation in contributions to teaching by meerkats

  • A. Thornton
  • Psychology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2008
Variation in contributions to teaching in meerkats is examined, where older group members teach pups to handle difficult prey and younger helpers, which were still investing in growth, contributed less to teaching than older individuals.

Tool transfers are a form of teaching among chimpanzees

It is shown that wild chimpanzees in the Goualougo Triangle teach tool skills by providing learners with termite fishing probes, and that teaching in this population may relate to the complexity of these termite-gathering tasks.

Ospreys do not teach offspring how to kill prey at the nest

It is found that ospreys do not teach their young at the nest, indicating that teaching may be more likely to evolve in such species as cooperative breeders.

The cost of teaching embryos in superb fairy-wrens

In superb fairy-wrens, females teach their embryos by calling to them: embryos learn a vocal password, and hatchlings incorporate the learned vocal password into their begging calls to solicit parental feeding.

Evidence of teaching in atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) by mother dolphins foraging in the presence of their calves

Data based on the maternal foraging behavior of mother Atlantic spotted dolphins are suggestive of teaching as a social-learning mechanism in nonhuman animals.

Wild chimpanzees scaffold youngsters’ learning in a high-tech community

  • A. Whiten
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2019
Young chimpanzees’ social learning is more highly structured in the high-tech population, differing especially in the ways mothers offer costly support to the efforts of their offspring, which the authors class as an elementary form of teaching.

Mammalian Social Learning: Non-Primates

  • B. Galef
  • Biology
    Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior
  • 2019

An Observation of Apparent Teaching Behavior in the Pallid Bat, Antrozous pallidus

A female bat experienced with a hunting task modified her behavior in the presence of a naïve observing male, resulting in a cost of reduced food availability to the female when she was hungry, while directing the male to food resources and accelerating his learning of a foraging task.



Is There Teaching in Nonhuman Animals?

It is argued that adherence to conventional, narrow definitions of teaching, generally derived from observations of human adult-infant interactions, has caused many related but simpler phenomena in other species to go unstudied or unrecorded, and severely limits further exploration of this topic.

Maternal encouragement in nonhuman primates and the question of animal teaching

Parsimony suggests that the cognitive mechanisms underlying maternal encouragement of infant locomotion in primates as well as some other putative cases of animal teaching may involve first-order intentionality and not higher cognitive processes such as attribution of knowledge/ignorance or perspective-taking.

The “Instinct to Teach”

Barnett points out that teaching by punishment is common among animals but believes that the evidence for teaching by encouragement is weak and it is difficult to distinguish between “behaviour which promotes learning of skills by imitation, on the one hand, and directed teaching”.

Teaching among wild chimpanzees

Teaching in tandem-running ants

T tandem running is an example of teaching, to the authors' knowledge the first in a non-human animal, that involves bidirectional feedback between teacher and pupil, and indicates that it could be the value of information, rather than the constraint of brain size, that has influenced the evolution of teaching.

The effect of pup vocalisations on food allocation in a cooperative mammal, the meerkat (Suricata suricatta)

The vocalisations that meerkat pups emit in the context of begging are described and the influence of these calls on food allocation by older group members and on the behaviour of littermates is investigated.

Culture in whales and dolphins

The complex and stable vocal and behavioural cultures of sympatric groups of killer whales (Orcinus orca) appear to have no parallel outside humans, and represent an independent evolution of cultural faculties.

The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence

A biology of traditions of traditions in orangutans and chimpanzees: social learning and social tolerance Carel P. van Schaik and Susan Perry.

Cooperation, control, and concession in meerkat groups.

The results of the 7-year field study of cooperative meerkats support the predictions of limited control models and provide no indication that dominant females grant reproductive concessions to subordinates to retain their assistance with future breeding attempts.