Divided We Fall: Cooperation among Lions; Amazing Animals; Exclusive Online Issues; by Craig Packer and Anne E. Pusey; 8 Page(s)
In the popular imagination, lions hunting for food present a marvel of group choreography: in the dying light of sunset, a band of stealthy cats springs forth from the shadows like trained assassins and surrounds its unsuspecting prey. The lions seem to be archetypal social animals, rising above petty dissension to work together toward a common goal--in this case, their next meal. But after spending many years observing these creatures in the wild, we have acquired a less exalted view.
Our investigations began in 1978, when we inherited the study of the lion population in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, which George B. Schaller of Wildlife Conservation International of the New York Zoological Society began in 1966. We hoped to discover why lions teamed up to hunt, rear cubs and, among other things, scare off rivals with chorused roars. All this togetherness did not make much evolutionary sense. If the ultimate success of an animal's behavior is measured by its lifetime production of surviving offspring, then cooperation does not necessarily pay: if an animal is too generous, its companions benefit at its expense. Why, then, did not the evolutionary rules of genetic self-interest seem to apply to lions?