Send to

Choose Destination
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2007 Apr 29;362(1480):523-38.

Social intelligence in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta).

Author information

Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


If the large brains and great intelligence characteristic of primates were favoured by selection pressures associated with life in complex societies, then cognitive abilities and nervous systems with primate-like attributes should have evolved convergently in non-primate mammals living in large, elaborate societies in which social dexterity enhances individual fitness. The societies of spotted hyenas are remarkably like those of cercopithecine primates with respect to size, structure and patterns of competition and cooperation. These similarities set an ideal stage for comparative analysis of social intelligence and nervous system organization. As in cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas use multiple sensory modalities to recognize their kin and other conspecifics as individuals, they recognize third-party kin and rank relationships among their clan mates, and they use this knowledge adaptively during social decision making. However, hyenas appear to rely more intensively than primates on social facilitation and simple rules of thumb in social decision making. No evidence to date suggests that hyenas are capable of true imitation. Finally, it appears that the gross anatomy of the brain in spotted hyenas might resemble that in primates with respect to expansion of frontal cortex, presumed to be involved in the mediation of social behaviour.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center