Life history evolution
One of our major projects is to understand the forces that shape patterns of fertility, growth, health and aging in mammals that live in close-knit family groups. Research on humans and laboratory mammals has shown that conditions experienced during early life can have a profound impact on health, behaviour and aging across the lifespan. For highly social animals, the quality of the early life environment depends to a large extent on how much care and attention offspring receive during development. Very little is known about these early life effects in wild mammals, particularly those that exhibit complex social behaviour. Banded mongooses are an ideal study species to explore these questions because multiple females give birth on the same day to a large litter that is then raised communally. Some pups receive lots of care and attention during early life, while their littermates (including siblings) have to fend for themselves from an early age. We are exploring the consequences of this variation in early life care for health, behaviour, reproductive success, and patterns of aging.