These incredible creatures are the smallest carnivores in Africa, with their diet ranging from beetle larvae and termites all the way up to scorpions, snakes and rodents. They’re often found living in old termite mounds where the temperatures remain pretty constant all year round – making for a comfortable home with central heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.
These highly social creatures will live in groups up to 30 individuals whereby a strict hierarchy is upheld. The oldest male and female are the alpha pair and monopolise the breeding in the colony. The colony also an interesting mutualistic relationship with giant plated lizards. These lizards are basically house -keepers and will eat the faeces of the mongooses; leaving the termite mound clean and hygienic. These lizards benefit from the relationship by obtaining left over nutrients from the faeces as well as having great lookouts in case of any danger.
The typical day of these little mammals begins with the alpha male coming out of the mound to check that all is safe and sound, then going back into the mound to call the rest of the family. The alpha will then mark his family with a special anal gland, also used to mark territory. This is vital to ensure that he has no strays coming into his family group. In the evening, he will then check that there are no other mongooses coming to have a sleepover!
After basking on the eastern side of their termite mound in the early morning sun, they then move out to forage and constantly keep in touch with one another using whistles and twitters. If they spot a predator they will give off alarm calls to let the rest of the family know to find cover. They’re smart – they use different alarm calls for each new predator, allowing the rest of the family to know where to expect the danger to be coming from. They also have a mutualistic/ symbiotic relationship with Hornbills as the bird will look out for danger from the trees and the mongooses from the ground, while feeding together.
There was a study done on the different alarm calls of the dwarf mongoose as a researcher noticed a difference between calls in different areas and wanted to see if there was anything in particular that was causing the difference. Recording the different calls after showing pictures of their predators, the recorded calls were played back to a group in a different geographic location. The new group recognised that there may be a threat but had no idea where the threat was coming from. The conclusion of the study said that the dwarf mongoose had different dialects according to geographic location.
Mongooses also have a relationship with a bird called a Fork Tailed Drongo, which is called kleptoparasitism. The Drongo will mimic the alarm calls of the mongoose as soon as it sees that the mongoose has caught a tasty morsel. Said mongoose will in all likelihood drop the prey, scurrying to safety and leaving behind its meal allowing the drongo to swoop in and steal it. Cheeky Drongo!