The haves and the have-nuts: Inequality runs rampant in the animal world, study finds – with some squirrels inheriting food stores while clownfish hand down the best shelters

  • Female north American red squirrels can be the lucky recipients of stores of nuts from their mothers, a research study into animal behaviour has shown 
  • Squirrels are not the only animals to benefit from assets passed down through the generations, with clown fish, hyenas and some monkeys passing on items  

Inequality is no longer just an issue for humans, as a study has shown it’s one that reaches out to impact the animal kingdom too. 

Research led by Mills College in California has shown that humans are not the only creatures that have to deal with inequality, highlighted by the passing on of key assets between generations of squirrels. 

Female north American red squirrels can be the lucky recipients of stores of nuts from their mothers, with those who receive such resources set to survive longer and reproduce earlier than those without. 

It’s a trend that’s also seen in clownfish, where offspring are handed down the best anemone shelters. 

Female north American red squirrels can be the lucky recipients of stores of nuts from their mothers

Hyenas too can be born with silver spoons in their mouths, with the daughters of high born females inheriting their status, and using it to ensure they eat first in the pack. 

The study, published in the journal Behavioural Ecology, is believed to be the first of its kind, looking into how animals transfer their resources between generations.  

Behavioural Ecologist Dr Jennifer Smith, lead author of the study, looked at monkeys and apes for the research behind the paper, and found that capuchins and chimpanzees inherit stone tools for breaking open nuts. 

Clown fish often hand down the best anemone shelters to their offspring 

Hyenas too can be born with silver spoons in their mouths, with the daughters of high born females inheriting their status, and using it to ensure they eat first in the pack

‘Humans pass on material wealth like silverware, a home, or land to the next generation,’ she told The Times. ‘Animals do this too. It occurs in many species: some individuals have priority of access to resources while others do not.’

Professor Eric Alden Smith of the University of Washington, who was not involved in the study, added: ”Humans have language, and therefore such things as cultural traditions, rules, norms, etc. 

;So the possibilities for transmitting material wealth, and intellectual wealth — knowledge that can be used to improve one’s well-being — are tremendously greater.

‘But at a more abstract level, many other species have ‘property rights’ in the form of territorial claims that are recognised, as well as contested, by other members of the population.’ 

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