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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Nov 10;106(45):19040-3. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0905309106. Epub 2009 Nov 2.

Cooperation and individuality among man-eating lions.

Author information

  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. jyeakel@pmc.ucsc.edu

Abstract

Cooperation is the cornerstone of lion social behavior. In a notorious case, a coalition of two adult male lions from Tsavo, southern Kenya, cooperatively killed dozens of railway workers in 1898. The "man-eaters of Tsavo" have since become the subject of numerous popular accounts, including three Hollywood films. Yet the full extent of the lions' man-eating behavior is unknown; estimates range widely from 28 to 135 victims. Here we use stable isotope ratios to quantify increasing dietary specialization on novel prey during a time of food limitation. For one lion, the delta(13)C and delta(15)N values of bone collagen and hair keratin (which reflect dietary inputs over years and months, respectively) reveal isotopic changes that are consistent with a progressive dietary specialization on humans. These findings not only support the hypothesis that prey scarcity drives individual dietary specialization, but also demonstrate that sustained dietary individuality can exist within a cooperative framework. The intensity of human predation (up to 30% reliance during the final months of 1898) is also associated with severe craniodental infirmities, which may have further promoted the inclusion of unconventional prey under perturbed environmental conditions.

PMID:
19884504
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2776458
Free PMC Article

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