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Meerkats are the most murderous mammal on Earth © Getty Images

Meerkats are the most murderous mammal on Earth

Published: 30th September, 2016 at 14:00
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Those cute critters from the insurance adverts have a dark side.

We humans can be a violent species, with stories of war, murder and terrorism frequently hitting the headlines. Yet according to new findings, meerkats put our bloodthirsty tendencies to shame.

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A team of researchers, led by José María Gómez, studied the murderous tendencies of 1,024 different mammal species. Meerkats came out on top, with 20 per cent of the cute critters being slaughtered by their own species.

Meerkat fight! © Getty
Meerkat fight! © Getty

Intriguingly, bats are among the most peaceful mammals – of numerous bat species studied, there was not one recorded incidence of them killing each other.

According to the research, humans have become less brutal over the course of history, with violence peaking in the Middle Ages. It is thought that as we settled into more organised states, our urge to kill each other lessened. But don't feel too smug: while our violence levels are typical within the primates, we're still pretty vicious among mammals in general.


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Authors

Alice Lipscombe-SouthwellManaging editor, BBC Science Focus

Alice is the managing editor at BBC Science Focus Magazine. She has a BSc in zoology with marine zoology. Her interests include natural history, wildlife, the outdoors, health and fitness.

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