Why do the meerkats at the zoo keep guard on the lookout for predators, even if they’ve been bred in captivity and have never encountered a predator?

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Why do the meerkats at the zoo keep guard on the lookout for predators, even if they’ve been bred in captivity and have never encountered a predator?

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There is a difference between learned behaviors and instinct. Learned Behaviors are something that an animal needs to be taught, either by experience or through communication of some sort with fellow members of it’s species. Instinct is something ingrained that the animal simply feels a compulsion to do, needing no other reason to do it other than that’s what it is “programmed” to do.

In this case, the lookout behavior is an instinct and thus it would usually take a LOT of generations to breed out due to uselessness, and due to the way evolution works there is no guarantee it would ever be bred out without genetic manipulation through things like breeding programs.

You never know when a predator makes his move. Just because it was safe for generations now doesn’t mean they might not come to get you next.

As others have said: it is instinct. But it is a good instinct. Saved a lot of meercat lives that time when the lynx escaped from his cage…