Selfish Sentinels

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Science  04 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5420, pp. 1633-1634
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5420.1633

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Suricates are a type of mongoose that live in a highly social community characterized by sentinel behavior, that is, some animals stand guard to warn of approaching predators while the rest of the group forage for food. In his Perspective, Daniel Blumstein explains that it had always been assumed that such sentinel behavior was selfless, guards being at a greater risk of predation than foragers. But, according to new data ( Clutton-Brock et al.), it now seems that guard duty is a selfish activity, conferring on sentinels the advantage of spotting the predator first and of escaping down nearby burrows ahead of the foragers.