Cooperative hunting in the yellow‐throated marten ( Martes flavigula ): Evidence for the not‐so‐solitary marten?

Joshua Twining, Chris Mills

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Abstract

Species socio‐ecologies are a key determinant of their ecological niche, and although dynamic, linked to environmental stochasticity, availability of resources, and inter‐ and intraspecific competition, socio‐ecological theory under its prevailing framework inadequately captures the transient nature of this multi‐faceted spectrum. Cooperative foraging is an example of an advanced social behavior that functions to release species from physiological and competitive limitations and is thought to only be observed in social species. Despite the advantages of social behaviors such as cooperative foraging, some groups, for example, the mustelids, are considered to be evolutionarily constrained in terms of sociality. The martens (Martes sp.) have been used as examples of obligately solitary species, physiologically and morphologically restricted by their inability to store fat and specialization in homogeneously distributed small vertebrate prey, and therefore presumed incapable of advanced social behaviors. Here, we provide evidence of cooperative foraging in the yellow‐throated marten (Martes flavigula) in Ramnagar, India. We highlight that a tropical climate and a change in resource distribution through seasonal frugivory may release the species from typical constraints associated with martens, and other small carnivores. We argue that alongside a growing number of observations of social behaviors in solitary carnivores, our current framework for viewing socio‐ecologies may limit our understanding of these species. Advances in biologging technologies are producing new data and insights into the social complexities of wildlife that will continue to challenge the expectations our current framework and these emerging data should be used as a platform to test and refine ecological theory regarding sociality and its drivers in animal populations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcosphere
Volume12
Issue number3
Early online date01 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Mar 2021

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