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Large Animal Research Group

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Our research explores the evolutionary causes and ecological consequences of animal societies and breeding systems and the mechanisms underlying contrasts in reproduction and behaviour.  We work principally with long-term, individual-based studies of mammals, including meerkats and mole-rats in the southern Kalahari.  In addition, we maintain a breeding facility with fifty-plus captive colonies of mole-rats at the same site which is used to investigate the mechanisms controlling reproductive suppression and cooperative behaviour.

Current research topics include:

  • The extent, patterning and causes of individual variation in cooperative behaviour;
  • The determinants of fitness in breeding females in cooperative breeders;
  • The endocrinological basis of variation in reproduction and cooperative behaviour in cooperative breeders;
  • Changes in gene function during the transition of individuals from juveniles to helpers and breeding adult;
  • The measurement of selection operating between individuals and between groups in cooperative societies;
  • The reasons for the association between cooperative breeding and unpredictability of climatic factors;
  • The effects of variation in rainfall and temperature on population dynamics in cooperative breeders and their interaction with Allee effects.

Key Publications 

Bateman A, Ozgul A, Nielsen J, Coulson T, Clutton-Brock T (2013) Social structure mediates environmental effects on group size in an obligate cooperative breeder, Suricata suricatta. Ecology 94: 587-597/doi: 10.1890/11-2122.1

Clutton-Brock, T. and Manser, M. (2016) Meerkats: cooperative breeding in the Kalahari. In Cooperative Breeding in Vertebrates (eds W.D. Koenig and J.L. Dickinson) Cambridge University Press pp. 294-317.

Huchard, E., English, S., Bell, M.B.V., Thavarajah, N. and Clutton-Brock, T.H. (2016) Competitive growth in a cooperative mammal.  Nature 533: 532-534/doi: 10.1038/nature17986

Lukas, D. and Clutton-Brock, T. (2017) Climate and the distribution of cooperative breeding in mammals.  Royal Society Open Science 4: 160897/doi: org/10.1098/rsos.160897

Dantzer, B. Bennett, N.C. and Clutton-Brock, T.H. (2017) Social conflict and costs of cooperation in meerkats are reflected in measures of stress hormones. Behavioral Ecology 28: 1131-1141/doi: 10.1093/beheco/arx077



Contact Details

Group Leader

Professor Tim Clutton-Brock

Department of Zoology
University of Cambridge
Downing St

01223  (3)36618

Group Members