Society, demography and genetic structure in the spotted hyena

Authors

  • KAY E. HOLEKAMP,

    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 203 Natural Sciences, East Lansing, MI, USA, 48824-1115
    2. BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, 1441 Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA, 48824
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  • JENNIFER E. SMITH,

    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 203 Natural Sciences, East Lansing, MI, USA, 48824-1115
    2. BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, 1441 Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA, 48824
    3. Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Center for Society & Genetics, University of California Los Angeles, 621 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606
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  • CHRISTOPHER C. STRELIOFF,

    1. BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, 1441 Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA, 48824
    2. Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, 6130 Biomedical Physical Science Building, East Lansing, MI, 48824-4320
    3. Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, Terasaki Life Sciences Building, 610 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7239
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  • RUSSELL C. VAN HORN,

    1. Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego Zoo Global, 15600 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027-7000
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  • HEATHER E. WATTS

    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 203 Natural Sciences, East Lansing, MI, USA, 48824-1115
    2. Department of Biology, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, MS 8220, Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA
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Kay E. Holekamp, Fax: (517)432-2789; E-mail: holekamp@msu.edu

Abstract

Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are large mammalian carnivores, but their societies, called ‘clans’, resemble those of such cercopithecine primates as baboons and macaques with respect to their size, hierarchical structure, and frequency of social interaction among both kin and unrelated group-mates. However, in contrast to cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas regularly hunt antelope and compete with group-mates for access to kills, which are extremely rich food sources, but also rare and ephemeral. This unique occurrence of baboon-like sociality among top-level predators has favoured the evolution of many unusual traits in this species. We briefly review the relevant socio-ecology of spotted hyenas, document great demographic variation but little variation in social structure across the species’ range, and describe the long-term fitness consequences of rank-related variation in resource access among clan-mates. We then summarize patterns of genetic relatedness within and between clans, including some from a population that had recently gone through a population bottleneck, and consider the roles of sexually dimorphic dispersal and female mate choice in the generation of these patterns. Finally, we apply social network theory under varying regimes of resource availability to analyse the effects of kinship on the stability of social relationships among members of one large hyena clan in Kenya. Although social bonds among both kin and non-kin are weakest when resource competition is most intense, hyenas sustain strong social relationships with kin year-round, despite constraints imposed by resource limitation. Our analyses suggest that selection might act on both individuals and matrilineal kin groups within clans containing multiple matrilines.

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