School is often in session for young meerkats, with the top lesson being how to obtain food. Dads, as well as moms and even older considerate helpers, watch after youths, teaching them valuable skills without putting them in harm's way. How can a lesson on hunting, though, not be dangerous?
To solve that problem, dad or another instructor incrementally introduces dead, injured and then finally live prey to pups, according to Alex Thornton of the University of Cambridge and his team.
Like any good teacher, dad or the helpers also monitor the pup. If pups are reluctant to handle prey, dad nudges the item towards them to encourage interaction. Additionally, when the prey wanders off, dad retrieves it and returns it to his pup, sometimes further disabling it to make sure that it's safe for his pup to handle and eat.