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Maternal effects on meerkat social trajectories

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Maternal influences on offspring phenotype extend far beyond the transmission of maternal genes. Mothers may manipulate the quality of offspring early environment, with long-lasting effects on their fitness. Understanding whether and how mothers can adjust offspring pre- and postnatal development to the environment they will encounter is a topical question in evolutionary biology. Indeed, increasing appreciation of the importance of epigenetic effects – environmental effects on patterns of gene expression – is currently changing traditional views of development. My current work aims at understanding the extent and significance of maternal control over offspring growth and social trajectories in a wild cooperative mammal, the meerkat (Suricata suricatta). I will briefly present the current state of knowledge on maternal effects in social mammals, before explaining what insights may be gained from meerkat societies.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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