Genetics

Relatedness in the Laikipia Population

In the Laikipia population, group-living male striped hyenas did father the majority of the cubs born to females in the group. Among adults within groups, males are often related, but frequent low levels of relatedness between group-mate males indicates that coalition formation is not strictly a result of lack of dispersal, or co-dispersal with relatives. Very surprisingly, we also found that adult males are significantly less likely to live in ranges neighboring their male relatives than to live in more distant, nonadjacent ranges. Females also appeared to prefer living in ranges non-adjacent to related females.


Patterns of relatedness across social distances in Laikipia

The highest levels of relatedness were between individuals living in the same group. However, for all inter- or intra-sex comparisons (pair-types), those living in nonadjacent ranges were more closely related, on average, than those living in adjacent ranges.

These genetic patterns of preferential dispersal to ranges far from same-sex relatives are unusual and have not been reported in any other carnivore. However, they may be explained by individual strategies to maximize fitness. Specifically, the observed genetic patterns may reflect reinforcing selection to settle in a non-adjacent manner to reduce competition with relatives for resources (both sexes), or mates (males). A long term goal of this work is to investigate dispersal patterns in striped hyenas so that we may better understand the fitness pressures underlying them and, by extension, the selection pressures that shape and determine grouping patterns and the subsequent evolution of sociality (for which the evolution of grouping behaviors is a prerequisite).