Synchronous birth

TIMED DELIVERY  Young banded mongoose moms have a better chance at keeping their offspring alive if they have birth at the same time as the dominant females in the group.

Andy Young/Univ. of Exeter

For young banded mongoose moms, there’s only one choice for when to give birth — the same day as older, dominant mothers. In communities of these cat-sized animals, all females give birth together, no matter when they became pregnant.

It’s in the subordinate mongoose’s best interest to synchronize labor to give her young their best chance at survival, researchers now report. When scientists used contraceptives to manipulate mongoose pregnancy, they found that dominant females would kill any newborn mongoose they knew was not their own.

By waiting to give birth on the same day as older moms, a subordinate mongoose can slip her young into the communal litter where they’ll be safe, the team reports in the Jan. 7 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Sarah Zielinski is the Editor, Print at Science News Explores. She has a B.A. in biology from Cornell University and an M.A. in journalism from New York University. She writes about ecology, plants and animals.

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