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Behavioural structuring of relatedness in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) suggests direct fitness benefits of clan-level cooperation

Authors

  • Russell C. Van Horn,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 203 Natural Science Building, East Lansing, MI 48824–1115, USA;
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  • Anne L. Engh,

    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 203 Natural Science Building, East Lansing, MI 48824–1115, USA;
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  • Kim T. Scribner,

    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 203 Natural Science Building, East Lansing, MI 48824–1115, USA;
    2. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824–1222, USA;
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  • Stephan M. Funk,

    1. Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK
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  • Kay E. Holekamp

    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 203 Natural Science Building, East Lansing, MI 48824–1115, USA;
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Russell C. Van Horn. Fax: 517 432 2789; E-mail: vanhorn3@msu.edu

Abstract

Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are gregarious carnivores that live in multigenerational social groups, called clans, containing one to several matrilines. Members of multiple matrilines within a clan cooperate during dangerous interactions with inter- and intraspecific competitors. The evolution of cooperation may be influenced by relatedness between individuals, which in turn is influenced by reproductive skew and mate choice, dispersal and territorial behaviours. Behavioural data exist for spotted hyenas, but corresponding data on patterns of relatedness are unavailable; this lack of data makes it difficult to assess the relative importance of selection pressures favouring cooperative behaviour within and among groups. Therefore we conducted a longitudinal analysis of relatedness within a single large clan of spotted hyenas, as well as a cross-sectional analysis of relatedness among hyenas from multiple clans. Within a clan, patterns of relatedness reflected known pedigree relationships, and relatedness was higher within than among matrilines, even across generations. Although mean within-matriline relatedness varied among matrilines, it did not decline with matriline rank. On average, clan members were not related closely, due to high levels of male-mediated gene flow among clans, and relatedness declined very slightly across clan borders. Low mean relatedness within clans suggests that spotted hyenas cooperate with unrelated clan-mates against close paternal kin in other clans. Our data also suggest that spotted hyenas must derive large net direct fitness benefits from group living and cooperation.

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