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Reconciliation in the Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)


Kay Holekamp Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1115, USA. E-mail:


Theory predicts that it should often be in the best interests of gregarious animals to repair social bonds damaged by within-group conflict. Indeed, reconciliation in many primates takes the form of affiliative behavior occurring shortly after a conflict. Here we inquired whether reconciliation also occurs among spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), gregarious carnivores whose social lives share much in common with those of cercopithecine primates. In a large group of free-living hyenas in Kenya, we used focal animal observations to monitor rates at which various affiliative behaviors occurred before and after dyadic aggressive interactions. An affiliative behavior was identified as having a conciliatory function only if it occurred more frequently after than before fights, and if it was also associated with reduced rates of aggression between former opponents during the post-conflict interval. Of all affiliative behaviors monitored, only two types satisfied both these criteria: greeting behavior and non-aggressive approach. Over 72% of conciliatory behaviors occurred within the first five minutes after a fight, and hyenas reconciled after 14.6% of 698 fights. Mean conciliatory tendency (CT) for individual hyenas was 11.3%. Hyenas exhibited higher CTs when they were recipients (victims) of aggression than when they were aggressors, and they showed higher CTs in interactions with non-kin than with kin. Conciliatory tendencies did not vary with age–sex classes of opponents or with rank distance between opponents. Conciliatory tendency in spotted hyenas fell at the low end of the CT range observed among primates.