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Data from: Applying the resource dispersion hypothesis to a fission–fusion society: A case study of the African lion (Panthera leo).


Mbizah, Moreangels M.; Valeix, Marion; Macdonald, David W.; Loveridge, Andrew J. (2019), Data from: Applying the resource dispersion hypothesis to a fission–fusion society: A case study of the African lion (Panthera leo)., Dryad, Dataset,


The relationship between the spatio-temporal distribution of resources and patterns of sociality is widely discussed. While the Resource Dispersion Hypothesis (RDH) was formulated to explain why animals sometimes live in groups from which they derive no obvious benefits, it has also been successfully applied to species that benefit from group living. Some empirical tests have supported the RDH, but others have not, so conclusions remain equivocal and further research is required to determine the extent to which RDH predictions hold in natural systems. Here, we test four predictions of the RDH in an African lion population in the context of their fission-fusion society. We analyzed data on group composition of GPS-collared lions and patterns of prey availability. Our results supported the first and second predictions of the RDH: home range size (i) was independent of group size and (ii) increased with distance between encounters with prey herds. Nonetheless, the third and fourth RDH predictions were not supported: (iii) the measure of resource heterogeneity and (iv) resource patch richness measured through prey herd size and body size had no significant effect on lion group size. However, regarding the fourth prediction, we added an adaptation to account for dynamics of fission-fusion society, and found that the frequency of pride fission increased as group size increased. Our data set restricted us from going on to explore the effect of fission-fusion dynamics on the relationship between group size and patch richness. However this should be investigated in future studies as including fission-fusion dynamics provides a more nuanced, realistic appreciation of lion society. Our study emphasizes the importance of understanding the complexity of a species’ behavioural ecology within the framework of resource dispersion. Whatever larger theoretical framework may emerge to explain lion society, incorporating fission-fusion dynamics should allow the RDH to be refined and improved.

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