Landscape heterogeneity and behavioral traits drive the evolution of lion group territoriality

Anna A. Mosser, Margaret Kosmala, Craig Packer

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13 Scopus citations


Group territoriality is exhibited in a diverse range of species and is associated with complex behaviors such as cooperation and altruism. Current hypotheses for the evolutionary transition from solitary to group territoriality consider resource dispersion and population density as the primary drivers. We developed a spatially explicit, agent-based simulation model based on African lions (Panthera leo) to explore the evolution of group territoriality across a range of landscape heterogeneities and population densities. We also examined, within these differing landscapes, how 3 potential behavioral advantages to group territoriality (cooperative defense, increase in territory size, and territorial inheritance) influence the evolution of this trait. Simulation results demonstrate that group territoriality may be an emergent property, which evolves due to synergistic interactions of landscape structure, population density, and behavior. Social individuals were significantly more likely to dominate in both resource-poor and resource-rich, heterogeneous landscapes where individuals exhibit all 3 behavioral traits. Similar environment-behavior interactions may have shaped the evolution of sociality from solitary territoriality across a broad range of taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1051-1059
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. All rights reserved.


  • Emergence
  • Group territoriality
  • Landscape heterogeneity
  • Panthera leo
  • Resource dispersion hypothesis


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