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Meerkats are small social carnivores, and within each group a single dominant breeding pair monopolizes reproduction, while their offspring are reared by all group members. Competition for the breeding role is intense and the place of an individual in the social hierarchy depends on its size and weight. Elise Huchard et al. studied a natural population of wild Kalahari meerkats and show that they are continually sizing up one another to ensure that they are not overtaken in size and therefore social status by younger upstarts. Once a meerkat gets to the top of the pile, it puts on a spurt of growth to ensure that it remains bigger and heavier than its largest rival. The authors suggest that similar responses to the risk of competition might occur in other social mammals such as domestic animals and primates. Cover: Nathan Thavarajah.