Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lazy Lions Slow Research

Lions are unusual animals. Male lions have the characteristic mane, something not seen in any other type of big cat. The most unusual thing about lions is their sociability. Other big cats (and, indeed, small cats) are naturally solitary, hunting and living on their own. Lions, however, live in groups, hunting and hanging out together. Quite why they do this has proved something of a mystery, with various theories being advanced over the years to explain this odd behaviour. The three most commonly advanced are that their social living is driven by communal hunting, collective suckling of young and protection of cubs from other predators.

Professor Craig Parker set himself and his team the task of solving the conundrum of lions' social behaviour. They hoped that observing lions in action in the Serengeti would generate data that would make clear what advantage the big cats derived from their sociability. The initial expectation was that the project would take three years. Unfortunately, it ended up taking 45 – because lions are so lazy that they engage in so little activity that it took ages and ages to observe enough actual actions from which to start drawing conclusions.

Parker eventually found enough evidence to rebut the existing theories and to back a new one. This is that lions live together so that they can better defend prime hunting territory from rival lions. The most sought after territories for lions turned out to be areas where rivers converged together, with prides of lions that could not gain access to these typically being doomed to eventual disappearance.


An inuit panda production


Anonymous said...

Hey Ian. I'd be interested in knowing more about the professor you're referencing. Would you share your lion observations with our Facebook community?

If you tweet, you can also join us at


ian said...

Wow, ROAR, a film I never thought I would hear mentioned again. Reading about it on Wikipedia it really does sound like a relic from a time before animal welfare busybodies ruined film-making.

ian said...

I have yet to be assimilated into Twitter and can't post on the Roar the Movie Facebook page without liking the film... something I am a bit uncomfortable about doing for a film I have not seen and think might be a bit ethically dubious.