Relatedness in the Laikipia Population
In the Laikipia population we studied, group-living males did father the majority of the cubs born to females in their spatial group. Among adults within spatial 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.
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 other carnivores. 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 my work is to further 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).