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Young mongooses inherit the habits of their role model, not their parents

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By Brooks Hays, UPI

Young mongooses don't mimic the idiosyncrasies of their parents. Instead, they adopt the lifelong behavioral habits of their mentors, or role models.

As has been previously documented, young mongooses are raised by an "escort," not mom or dad. Until now, however, scientists hadn't determined the degree with which an escort influences their trainees's behavior.

By studying the niche diets of mongoose pups, their escort and their parents, researchers were able to show the important role escorts play in imparting lifelong habits. Researchers monitored the diets of young mongooses as they matured, showing their eating habits are long-lasting.

"It was a big surprise to discover that foraging behavior learned in the first three months of life lasts a lifetime," Michael Cant, an ecologist at the University of Exeter, said in a news release. "This is pretty remarkable, since we have no evidence that pups and escorts preferentially hang out together after pups become independent."

The new research, published this week in the journal Current Biology, offers a reminder of the importance of cultural inheritance among social animals.

The findings also offer an explanation for how cultural diversity is maintained across generations. Because each mongoose learns from one-on-one time with a single escort, diverse behavioral niches can persist.

"Cultural inheritance is usually expected to lead to uniformity within groups," said Harry Marshall, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Roehampton. "But our work confirms a classic theoretical prediction that where individuals learn from their own personal teacher, cultural inheritance can work to maintain diversity."

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Technology - U.S. Daily News: Young mongooses inherit the habits of their role model, not their parents
Young mongooses inherit the habits of their role model, not their parents
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