Spotted Hyaena

Spotted Hyaena

Spotted hyaena clans are matrilinear and females are usually dominant over males, inheriting their ranks from their mothers.

Spotted hyaena clans are matrilinear and females are usually dominant over males.

Higher ranking females have been shown to associate more with kin than low-ranking females. This behavior is beneficial to related females because they forage together and engage in coalitionary attacks against unrelated females when competing for food at a kill. Thus, females who associate with their female kin are able to gather larger amounts of food more efficiently.

In addition to allowing matrilines to defend their rank, close associations among female kin allow some of these kin groups to displace higher ranking matrilines under certain conditions. Finally, low-ranking females preferentially associate with higher ranking females. It is hypothesized that these low-ranking females receive benefits from high-ranking females through reciprocal cooperation.

Female spotted hyaenas remain in their natal clan for their entire lives and have stable linear dominance hierarchies. In addition, rank is inherited from the mother so these hierarchies remain stable for many generations. Males, however, disperse upon reaching sexual maturity. Juvenile males emigrate after puberty and join new clans where their position in the dominance hierarchy may increase over time. Once a male joins another clan, he enters a dominance queue that the other males respect. As more males enter the queue and older males die, the male will move up through the social rank. Males spend a long time developing relationships with females in the clan. They follow females for periods of days or weeks and eventually gain favor with the females through this behavior.

Image | © Tambako The Jaguar, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Sources | (East & Hofer, 2001; Frank, Holekamp, & Smale, 1995; Holekamp, et al., 1997; Kruuk, 1972; Law, 2004)


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