Effect of ecological and anthropogenic factors on grouping patterns in African lions across Kenya
Social carnivores frequently live in fission-fusion societies, where individuals that share a common territory or home range may be found alone, in subgroups, or altogether. Absolute group size and subgroup size is expected to vary according to resource distribution, but for species that are susceptible to anthropogenic pressures, other factors may be important drivers. African lions (Panthera leo) are the only truly social felid and lion prides are characterized by fission-fusion dynamics with social groups frequently splitting and reforming, and subgroup membership can change continuously and frequently. The number of individuals in a group can be reflective of social, ecological, and anthropogenic conditions. This dynamic behavior makes understanding lion grouping patterns crucial for tailoring conservation measures. The evolution of group living in lions has been the topic of numerous studies, and we drew on these to formulate hypotheses relating to group size and subgroup size variation. Based on data collected from 199 lion groups across eight sites in Kenya, we found that group sizes were smaller when lions were closer to human settlements, suggesting that edge effects are impacting lions at a national scale. Smaller groups were also more likely when they were far from water, and were associated with very low and very high levels of non-tree vegetation. We found significant differences between the study sites, with the Maasai Mara having the largest groups (mean +/- SD = 7.7 +/- 4.7, range = 1-19), and Amboseli conservation area the smallest (4.3 +/- 3.5, range = 1-14). While long-term studies within a single site are well suited to thoroughly differentiate between absolute group size and subgroup size, our study provides unique insight into the correlates of grouping patterns in a vulnerable species at a national scale. Social carnivores, such as lions, commonly reside in fission-fusion societies, where individuals may be found alone, in subgroups, or together within a shared territory. While the impact of ecological and anthropogenic conditions on grouping patterns is known at broader scales, the effects of fine-scale variations remain less explored. Lions, as the only truly social felid, exhibit fission-fusion dynamics with frequent and continuous changes in subgroup membership. Through data collected from eight sites across Kenya, we looked at the intricate relationship between ecological and anthropogenic factors and the grouping patterns of lions and observed distinct variations in both group and subgroup sizes at local scales.image
Source (journal)
Ecology and evolution. - Oxford, 2011, currens
Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell , 2024
14 :2 (2024) , p. 1-14
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Creation 04.03.2024
Last edited 08.03.2024
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