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Biology and Conservation of Musteloids$
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David W. Macdonald, Chris Newman, and Lauren A. Harrington

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198759805

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198759805.001.0001

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Musteloid sociality: the grass-roots of society

Musteloid sociality: the grass-roots of society

(p.167) Chapter 6 Musteloid sociality: the grass-roots of society
Biology and Conservation of Musteloids

David W. Macdonald

Chris Newman

Oxford University Press

Excluded from the pursuit predator niche by better-adapted early felids and canids, the musteloids exploited other hunting strategies as grasslands proliferated in the Oligocene. Unconstrained by specialised running limbs, lineages evolved to excavate prey (badgers) and enter burrows (polecats). Others took to tree-climbing (martens, procynoids) and even swimming (otters). While some species specialised in rodent hunting (weasels) others became more generalist omnivores. In-turn the dispersion of these food types dictated socio-spatial geometries, allowing insectivorous, piscivorous and frugivorous species to congregate with varying degrees of social cohesion, often unified within subterranean burrows – a basis to group-living distinct from the pack-hunting felids and canids. Induced ovulation and delayed implantation feature in the mating systems of several species, evolved to ensure breeding success amongst low-density, solitary ancestors. Group-living musteloids exhibit degrees of reproductive suppression, allo-parental care and other cooperative behaviours, thus this contrarian superfamily provides unique insights into the basis of carnivore societies.

Keywords:   Allo-parental, Cooperation, Fossoriality, Group-living, Home range, Sociality, Socio-ecology, Mating systems, Resource Dispersion Hypothesis

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