London, June 30 (ANI): A new study has revealed that lions can act much like street gangs, gathering together to form prides to defend their turf against other lions.
According to a report by BBC News, the study analyzed the behavior of 46 lion prides living in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
Conducted by ecologists Anna Mosser and Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota in St Paul, US, the study collated data about the prides' behavior over 38 years, including where they ranged, their composition and how they interacted.
Across Africa and Asia, lions form prides of varying sizes comprising one or more males and often numerous females and cubs.
Mosser's and Packer's key finding was that competition between lion prides significantly affects the mortality and reproductive success of female lions.
Larger prides with more adult females not only produced more cubs, as might be expected, but the females within these prides were less likely to be wounded or killed by other lions.
Prides with more females were also more likely to gain control of areas disputed with neighbouring prides, and those prides that recruited lone females improved the quality of their territory.
"The most important way to think about this is that lion prides are like street gangs," said Packer.
"They compete for turf. The bigger the gang, the more successful it is at controlling the best areas. The main difference from humans is that these are gangs of female lions," he added.
Both researchers think the study, alongside other work they have yet to publish, finally confirms that bigger prides form to defend territory.
"The advantage of large group size for group-territorial animals has been suspected for a long time, but had never been proven with data," said Mosser. "With this paper, we were able to do just that because of the many groups studied over a long period," she added.
According to researchers, the territorial advantages gained by coming together into larger social groups would have driven the evolution of social behavior in lions.
Such insights will help with the conservation of lions, the numbers of which are suspected to have fallen by at least a third across Africa over the past two decades. (ANI)