Persistence Pays Off for Meerkat Underdogs

As US President Calvin Coolidge once famously said, "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent ..."

Well, it turns out that persistence is not only good for the human race. It's also good for the meerkat-kind, as research by animal behavior specialist Alex Thornton of the University of Cambridge showed.

The researchers put a scorpion (apparently a yummy treat to meerkats) inside a container, and observed how different members of a meerkat group behaved:

Despite this apparent lack of ingenuity, the low-ranked males outperformed all other members of the group. They simply would not give up until they had worked out how reach the scorpion.

Dr Thornton explained that these subordinate adult males were the ones that left their group to find mates, "so it's beneficial for them to be willing to take risks and try to solve new problems when they encounter them", he said.

The researcher added that, although many researchers have suggested that innovation may be "cognitively demanding", these results indicated that "simple, conserved learning processes and dogged perseverance may suffice to generate solutions to novel problems".

"I think the phrase that best describes this is 'necessity is the mother of invention,'" said Dr Thornton. "If you're dominant, you can bully and steal stuff from others.

"If you're subordinate, it may pay for you to take risks and figure things out for yourself."

Yay for the underdogs! Link


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