Cooperative hunting in lions: the role of the individual

Summary

Individually identified lions (Panthera leo) were observed on the open, semi-arid plains in Namibia. Data from 486 coordinated group hunts were analysed to assess cooperation and individual variation in hunting tactics. Group hunts generally involved a formation whereby some lionesses (“wings”) circled prey while others (“centres”) waited for prey to move towards them. Those lionesses that occupied “wing” stalking roles frequently initiated an attack on the prey, while lionesses in “centre” roles moved relatively small distances and most often captured prey in flight from other lionesses. Each lioness in a given pride repeatedly occupied the same position in a hunting formation. Hunts where most lionesses present occupied their preferred positions had a high probability of success. Individual hunting behaviour was not inflexible, however, but varied according to different group compositions and to variations in the behaviour of other individuals present. The role of cooperative hunting and its apparent advantages within the semi-arid environment of Etosha National Park, Namibia, are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Ablon SD, Mitchell B, Huby BJ, Brown D (1986) Fertility in female red deer (Cervus elaphus): the effects of body composition, age and reproductive status. J Zool (Lond) 209:447–460

    Google Scholar 

  2. Alcock J (1989) Animal behavior: an evolutionary approach. 4th edn. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA

    Google Scholar 

  3. Anonymous (1989) Laws of the game of rugby football. Freedman & Rossi, Cape Town, South Africa

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bertram BCR (1979) Serengeti predators and their social systems. In: Sinclair ARE, Norton-Griffiths M (eds) Serengeti: dynamics of an ecosystem. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 221–248

    Google Scholar 

  5. Caraco T, Wolf LL (1975) Ecological determinants of group sizes of foraging lions. Am Nat 109:343–352

    Google Scholar 

  6. East R (1984) Rainfall, soil nutrient status and biomass of large Africa savanna mammals. Afr J Ecol 22:245–270

    Google Scholar 

  7. Eaton RL (1970) The predatory sequence with emphasis on killing behavior and its ontogeny, in the cheetah. Z Tierpsychol 27:492–504

    Google Scholar 

  8. Elliot JP, Cowan I McT, Holling CS (1977) Prey capture by the African lion. Can J Zool 56:1726–1734

    Google Scholar 

  9. Griffin DR (1984) Animal thinking. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  10. Guggisberg CAW (1962) Simba. Bailey Bros & Swinfen, London

    Google Scholar 

  11. Kruuk H (1972) The spotted hyena. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  12. Lamprecht J (1981) The function of social hunting in larger terrestrial carnivores. Mammal Rev 11:169–179

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Le Roux CJG, Grunow JO, Morris JW, Bredenkamp GJ, Scheepers JC (1988) A classification of the vegetation of the Ethosha National Park. S Afr J Bet 54:1–10

    Google Scholar 

  14. Maynard Smith J (1982) Evolution and the theory of games. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  15. Mech LD (1970) The wolf: the ecology and behaviour of an endangered species. The Natural History Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  16. Mills MGL (1990) Kalahari hyaenas: comparative behavioural ecology of two species. Unwin Hyman, London

    Google Scholar 

  17. Norris KS, Schilt CR (1988) Cooperative societies in three-dimensional space: on the origins of aggregations, flocks, and schools, with special reference to dolphins and fish. Ethel Sociobiol 9:149–179

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Orford HJL, Perrin MR, Berry HH (1988) Contraception, reproduction and demography of free-ranging Etosha lions (Panthera leo). J Zool (Lond) 216:717–733

    Google Scholar 

  19. Packer C (1986) The ecology of sociality in felids. In: Rubenstein DI, Wrangham RW (eds) Ecological aspects of social evolution. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 429–451

    Google Scholar 

  20. Packer C, Pusey AE (1982) Cooperation and competition within coalitions of male lions: kin selection or game theory? Nature 296:740–742

    Google Scholar 

  21. Packer C, Pusey AE (1985) Asymmetric contests in social mammals: respect, manipulation and age-specific aspects. In: Harvey PH, Slatkin M (eds) Evolution: essays in honour of John Maynard Smith. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 173–186

    Google Scholar 

  22. Packer C, Ruttan L (1988) The evolution of cooperative hunting. Am Nat 132:159–198

    Google Scholar 

  23. Packer C, Scheel D, Pusey AE (1990) Why lions form groups: food is not enough. Am Nat 136:1–19

    Google Scholar 

  24. Schaller GB (1972) The Serengeti lion. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  25. Scheel D, Packer C (1991) Group hunting behaviour of lions: a search for cooperation. Anim Behav 41:697–709

    Google Scholar 

  26. Siegel S (1956) Nonparametric statistics for the behavioural sciences. McGraw-Hill, New York

    Google Scholar 

  27. Smuts GL, Anderson JL, Austin JC (1978) Age determination of the African lion (Panthera leo). J Zool (Lond) 185:115–146

    MathSciNet  MATH  Google Scholar 

  28. Smuts GL, Robinson GA, Whyte IJ (1980) Comparative growth of wild male and female lions (Panthera leo). J Zool (Lond) 190:365–373

    Google Scholar 

  29. Stander PE (1991) Demography of lions in the Etosha National Park. Madoqua 18:1–9

    Google Scholar 

  30. Stander PE (1992) Foraging dynamics of lions in a semi-arid environment. Can J Zool (in press)

  31. Slander PE, Albon SD (in press) Hunting success of lions in a semi-acid environment. Symp Zool Soc Lond, vol 65

  32. Stander PE, Morkel PvdB (1991) Field immobilization of lions using disassociative anaesthetics in combination with sedatives. Afr J Ecol 29:137–148

    Google Scholar 

  33. Van Orsdol KG (1981) Lion predation in Rwenzori National Park. PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, UK

    Google Scholar 

  34. Van Wyk TC, Berry HH (1986) Tolazoline as an antagonist in free-living lions immobilized with a ketamine-xylazine combination. J S Afr Vet Ass 57:99–104

    Google Scholar 

  35. Wilson EO (1975) Sociobiology: the new synthesis. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stander, P.E. Cooperative hunting in lions: the role of the individual. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 29, 445–454 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00170175

Download citation

Keywords

  • High Probability
  • Hunt
  • Individual Variation
  • Small Distance
  • Group Composition