Evolution of Cooperation among Mammalian Carnivores and Its Relevance to Hominin Evolution

Jennifer E. Smith, Eli M. Swanson, Daphna Reed and Kay E. Holekamp
Current Anthropology
Vol. 53, No. S6, Human Biology and the Origins of Homo (December 2012), pp. S436-S452
DOI: 10.1086/667653
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/667653
Page Count: 17
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Evolution of Cooperation among Mammalian Carnivores and Its Relevance to Hominin Evolution
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Anthropological theory suggests direct links between the origins of cooperation in hominins and a shift toward an energy-rich diet. Although the degree to which early hominins ate meat remains controversial, here we reevaluate the notion, originally suggested by Schaller and Lowther in 1969, that mammalian carnivores can shed light on human origins. Precisely when cooperation evolved in hominins or carnivores is unknown, but species from both groups cooperatively hunt large game, defend resources, guard against predators, and rear young. We present a large-scale comparative analysis of extant carnivore species, quantifying anatomical, ecological, and behavioral correlates of cooperation to determine whether metabolic rate, body and relative brain size, life history traits, and social cohesion coevolved with cooperation. We focus heavily on spotted hyenas, which live in more complex societies than other carnivores. Hyenas regularly join forces with kin and nonkin to hunt large antelope and to defend resources during intergroup conflicts and disputes with lions. Our synthesis highlights reduced sexual dimorphism, increased reproductive investment, high population density, fission-fusion dynamics, endurance hunting of big game in open habitats, and large brains as important correlates of cooperation among carnivores. We discuss the relevance of our findings to understanding the origins of cooperation in hominins.

Notes and References

This item contains 166 references.

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