High social status has its privileges when it comes to aging – even in wild animals.
In a first-of-its-kind study involving a wild species, Michigan State University researchers have shown that social and ecological factors affect animal health. The results, published in the current issue of Biology Letters, focused on spotted hyenas in Kenya.
“High-ranking members in hyena clans reproduce more, they live longer and appear to be in better overall health,” said Nora Lewin, MSU doctoral student of zoology and co-lead author. “If you want to see the hierarchy of spotted hyenas, throw down some fresh meat near them. It’s quickly apparent who’s dominant and who’s not.”
But Lewin wondered if long-accepted biological markers would support what she was seeing in the field. Thanks to working with fellow lead author Kay Holekamp, MSU zoologist, and her long-running hyena experiment, Lewin had access to more than 25 years of data and was able to spend a summer afield in Kenya, observing hyenas’ social structure firsthand.
>> Read the Full Article