The behavior is the first hard evidence of active teaching by a nonhuman mammal, researchers say. Chimpanzees and other mammals have been shown to teach their young passively—babies learn by watching adults. But adult meerkats in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa were observed devoting much time and effort to teaching pups how to handle tricky food items—a task that carried no immediate advantage for the adults. In addition to lizards, beetles, and millipedes, deadly scorpions are on the meerkats’ menu.
Some of these scorpion species have enough venom to kill a human, while others are armed with powerful pincers. Meerkats encourage their pups to practice killing and eating such risky meals by bringing the youngsters live prey, according to the study, done by researchers at the University of Cambridge in England.