• The meerkat is a species of mammal belonging to the mongoose family. Its habitat is the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa. Meerkats function cooperatively in a group led by a female meerkat. The dominant female leader is called a matriarch.

    1. Does the female meerkat or male meerkat lead the family?

      The female meerkat, or matriarch, leads the family group.

    2. Can you think of other family groups led by a matriarch?

      Answers will vary. Bee colonies, orcas (killer whales), and elephants all have matriarchal societies.

    3. Can you think of an animal family that is led by a patriarch, or dominant male?

      Answers will vary. Gorillas, wild turkeys, and elephant seals all have patriarchal societies.

    • All meerkats in a mob care for the offspring of the dominant female, or matriarch.
    • Meerkats follow the lead of the dominant female when battling predators or other meerkat mobs.
    • When the dominant female dies, she is replaced by one of the oldest and biggest females of the group.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    desert Noun

    area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: desert
    habitat Noun

    environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: habitat
    mammal Noun

    animal with hair that gives birth to live offspring. Female mammals produce milk to feed their offspring.

    matriarch Noun

    female leader of a family.