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Field trials used to investigate the social lives of badgers

New research published in BMC Ecology investigates why badgers, an antisocial species, choose to live in groups. The study was carried out at the University of Oxford and is the first large-scale field trial to analyse the reasons why badgers live together.

By living in groups, many social animals gain benefits, such as group hunting, increased vigilance against predators and group parenting. However, badgers forage for food in solitude and do not share the duties of parenting among the group. Indeed, there is evidence that the body condition of badgers deteriorates when they live in large groups and that the reproductive success of female badgers declines as group size increases. These observations beg the question, why do badgers bother living in groups at all?

This new study uses data collected over 25 years from Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire to explain the social organisation of badgers. The results of the study indicate that the patchy nature of the badger major food source, earthworms, could lead to the passive formation of badger groups. It seems that badgers exist in groups because they need a geographic territory with enough earthworms for each badger to eat.

This work provides the first real evidence of resources, such as food, playing a part in the social organisation of a species. The authors conclude that further work will need to be done to turn their findings into a predictive theory for the social organisation of other species.


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Contact: Gordon Fletcher
gordon@biomedcentral.com
44-020-7323-0323
BioMed Central
13-Sep-2001


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