Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 11, pp 1731–1743 | Cite as

Simultaneous GPS tracking reveals male associations in a solitary carnivore

  • Mia Lana Lührs
  • Peter M. KappelerEmail author
Original Paper


In hypercarnivorous species, females have large spatial requirements to meet their nutritional needs, and food competition among females is intense. As a result, females are typically solitary and territorial, and solitary males compete for access to dispersed females. Yet, largely anecdotal reports indicate that facultative male sociality may be more common in solitary carnivores than previously thought. We studied spatial interactions among fossas (Cryptoprocta ferox), Madagascar's largest carnivore, using simultaneous GPS tracking of 13 adult individuals to determine patterns of sex-specific spatial distribution and sociality. Male home ranges were larger than those of females, male home ranges overlapped more with those of other males than those of females with other females. Whereas some males were solitary, a subset of adult males was found to have very high home range overlap, high rates of co-location within <50 m, low minimum inter-individual distances, and significantly positive “dynamic interaction”. These associated dyads sometimes, but not always, were close relatives. The fact that solitary and associated males coexist in this population raises interesting questions concerning constraints and flexibility of social tolerance. This study yielded preliminary indications that female distribution appears to be primarily structured by resource competition, whereas male sociality seems to depend on demographic chance events, yet unknown proximate determinants of social tolerance, and it is associated with somatic and reproductive advantages. Male associations among carnivores are therefore more widespread and appear to be based on a wider range of factors than previously thought.


Social organization Carnivores Cryptoprocta ferox GPS telemetry Male sociality Dynamic interaction test 



This study was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG KA 1082/17-1), the Fossa Fund of Zoo Duisburg AG and the German Primate Center GmbH (DPZ). We thank Rémy Ampataka, Tianasoa Andrianjanahary, Nielsen Rabarijaona, and Jean-Pierre Tolojanahary for field assistance; Léonard Razafimanantsoa, Rodin Rasoloarison, and Heike Klensang for administrative support; Elise Huchard and Sandra Langer for veterinary assistance; Franz Kümmeth from e-obs GmbH for technical support; Melanie Dammhahn, Cornelia Kraus, Peter Waser, and three anonymous referees for very helpful comments. We thank the Département de Biologie Animale de l'Université d'Antananarivo, the Commission Tripartite CAFF, and CNFEREF Morondava for their authorization and support of this study.

Ethical standards

This study is in compliance with animal care regulations and applicable national laws of Germany and Madagascar. All research protocols were approved by the responsible authorities in Germany (Bundesministerium für Naturschutz, BfN) and Madagascar (Ministère de l'Environnement et des Eaux et Forêts, MINEEF).

Supplementary material

265_2013_1581_Fig4_ESM.jpg (75 kb)
Fig. 1

Selected plots of MCP home ranges per sex and month. Home ranges (colored lines) are presented within the Kirindy Forest (green contours) and marked individually (females F1–F4 on the left, males M1–M9 on the right). Ranges of the month stated are in thicker lines than those from other years (males) or months (females), which were included as additional information. For female ranges, resource information such as the course of a river (blue) and a central unforested area (green contour) was additionally provided. Female F4 (lower left) was tracked singly and therefore plotted with potential ranges of other females and its 50–90 % kernel ranges. For male ranges, additional information is provided for known and assumed locations of mating trees (red hash) in the area. Members of a male association are denoted with a “+” between their IDs. (JPEG 74 kb)

265_2013_1581_MOESM1_ESM.tif (732 kb)
High-resolution image (TIFF 732 kb)
265_2013_1581_Fig5_ESM.jpg (25 kb)
Fig. 2

Cumulative probabilities of observed (red circles) and expected (black line) inter-individual distances for simultaneously tracked female–female dyads. Expected values were calculated according to Doncaster (1990) from all possible n 2 distances between n positions of both individuals. (JPEG 24 kb)

265_2013_1581_MOESM2_ESM.tif (206 kb)
High-resolution image (TIFF 206 kb)
265_2013_1581_Fig6_ESM.jpg (115 kb)
Fig. 3

Cumulative probabilities of observed (red circles) and expected (black line) inter-individual distances for simultaneously tracked male–male dyads sorted by ID. Expected values were calculated according to Doncaster (1990) from all possible n 2 distances between n positions of both individuals. (JPEG 115 kb)

265_2013_1581_MOESM3_ESM.tif (829 kb)
High-resolution image (TIFF 829 kb)
265_2013_1581_Fig7_ESM.jpg (120 kb)
Fig. 4

Cumulative probabilities of observed (red circles) and expected (black line) inter-individual distances for simultaneously tracked female–male dyads sorted by ID of the female. Expected values were calculated according to Doncaster (1990) from all possible n 2 distances between n positions of both individuals. (JPEG 120 kb)

265_2013_1581_MOESM4_ESM.tif (1 mb)
High-resolution image (TIFF 1,074 kb)
265_2013_1581_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (49 kb)
ESM Tables (PDF 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociobiology/Anthropology, Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach-Institute of Zoology and AnthropologyGeorg-August-UniversityGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit, German Primate Center, Leibniz Institute for Primate ResearchGöttingenGermany

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