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Teaching in Wild Meerkats

Science  14 Jul 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5784, pp. 227-229
DOI: 10.1126/science.1128727

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Abstract

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 without the use of complex cognition. The lack of evidence for teaching in species other than humans may reflect problems in producing unequivocal support for the occurrence of teaching, rather than the absence of teaching.

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