Collective Behaviour - Summer Seminar Series 2023

Cooperation in collective action: on the "hunt" for role specialization

Dr. Genevieve Finerty & Dr. Natalia Borrego, CASCB / Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior


Our research addresses the fundamental question: why cooperate? This question is central to understanding collective action across disciplines, from evolutionary biology to social sciences. We address this in the context of group hunts asking: when do we expect animal groups to move beyond simply hunting collectively to hunting collaboratively; and under what circumstances do we expect the emergence of role specialization? The extent to which animals actively cooperate during group hunts remains the centre of vociferous (and largely data-free) debate. Largely data-free, because it requires simultaneous data on all individuals in a group, repeated over many hunts, which becomes logistically intractable with traditional observational methods.

In our seminar, we will give an overview of how we overcome these challenges by using recent technological advances to simultaneously track movement, behaviour, and communication of entire lion prides in Namibia’s semi-arid Northwest. This is the only population where role specialization has been definitively documented in lions, making it uniquely suited to address our overarching research question. By simultaneously tracking three groups with widely divergent ecologies, we will generate unprecedented insight into the proximate drivers of cooperative hunting dynamics and address longstanding questions about the factors shaping collective action in hunts.

Drs. Natalia Borrego and Genevieve Finerty are postdoctoral researchers with the University of Konstanz, CASCB, and MPI-AB EAS. Natalia is interested in the selective forces shaping sociality and the proposed evolutionary links between sociality and advanced cognition. Genevieve is interested in how resources impact the spatial and social structure of animal groups and their behaviour during collective action. They are jointly leading projects focused on variability in the social behaviour and cooperative complexity of African lions across a variety of habitat types. Their work aims to identify conditions under which sociality and cooperative complexity emerge (and break down). 

Datum: 2023-07-10