Are Mongooses Monogamous?

Banded mongooses scuffle with neighboring social groups over females, but perhaps not in the way that you'd expect.

They may look peaceful here, but female banded mongooses sometimes instigate deadly fights with other groups so they can mate with unfamiliar males and increase genetic diversity.
They may look peaceful here, but female banded mongooses sometimes instigate deadly fights with other groups so they can mate with unfamiliar males and increase genetic diversity.

These mongooses rarely stray from their family groups, but periodically, around 20 mongooses from one group will face off with outsiders in a battle royale -- typically instigated by one group’s female contingent.

While battle-scarred males fight for their lives, the females are scoping out potential mates in the enemy ranks, according to years of study in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. The behavior minimizes the negative effects of inbreeding by increasing genetic diversity.

The marvelous (but not monogamous) mongoose:

  • It’s difficult for female mongooses to find mates in other groups. Once they come into estrus, they’re dogged by males in their own group. The only answer is to visit the neighbors and start a fight.

  • Violent battles with rival groups are part of life for the banded mongoose, a five-pound (2.3-kg) cat-like predator native to Africa. The battles can last hours, and some combatants -- usually males -- are killed.

  • Chimpanzees are known to wage group warfare, both to defend or expand their territories and to take females from other families. But mongooses almost never leave the group they’re born into.


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