Development of cooperative territoriality in juvenile lions

R. Heinsohn, C. Packer, A. E. Pusey

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21 Scopus citations


African lions, Panthera leo, engage in many cooperative activities including hunting, care of young, and group territoriality, but the contribution of juvenile lions to these activities has never been documented. Here we present experimental evidence that juvenile lionesses make a gradual transition to group-territorial defence between weaning (8 months) and sexual maturity (42 months). When challenged by simulated intruders played from a loud-speaker, juvenile females (but not males) become progressively more likely to join the adult females in territorial defence with age, and their behaviour is affected by both the number of defending adults and the number of intruders. We interpret the ability of juveniles to assess relative numbers as an adaptation for assessing the risk of territorial conflict according to their own fighting ability, and the ability of their pride to successfully defend the territory. The difference between the sexes reflects the greater value of the natal territory to philopatric females. Adult females display a variety of strategies when defending the territory, including unconditional and conditional forms of cooperation. We show here that individuals display the rudiments of these strategies as juveniles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-479
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1369
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


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