Like humans, social animals have to make decisions together all the time. When information can be shared in groups, the group benefits from the experiences of individuals. To better understand how social animals make decisions, we examine how meerkats move as a group and how they use their complex communication system for their coordination.
How do meerkats use their communication system to make decisions?
To move efficiently as a group, communication is highly important. While meerkats cannot communicate through language like we do as humans, they produce a variety of vocal signals that facilitate group coordination.
Since meerkats have many predators, it is particularly important that meerkats react efficiently as a group during predator alarms. Because of this, meerkats produce various alarm calls for different predators. In the following video you can see a meerkat’s reaction to an alarm call.
When the group is foraging for food, meerkats often make contact calls in order to know where the other individuals in the group are. This makes it easier for them to coordinate their movements during foraging.
To coordinate movements as a group, for example to change location or find their way back to the burrow, meerkats produce signals that help them to coordinate their movements.