Behaviour 2019
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Causes and consequences of 'social distancing' among the sexes in lions
Stotra Chakrabarti1,2, Joseph K Bump1, YV Jhala2, Craig Packer1. 1University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States; 2Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

Sexual segregation in fission-fusion societies remains poorly understood and typically focused on isolated systems. Through a comparative analysis of long-term data from African and Asian lion populations, we show that male-female associations are contingent upon male- and female-group size, prey- size and availability, and the number of prides where each male coalition currently resides. Males maintain proximity with females while females avoid them, however this avoidance disappears at large prey carcasses. Lions feed on the largest prey in Ngorongoro and smallest in Gir; females spend the most time with males in Ngorongoro and the least in Gir. Females roar less often in prey-scarce environments of the dry season in Serengeti and throughout the year in Gir to possibly prevent being tracked by males that parasitize on female kills. This indicates that lions not only react to prey availability but also appear to anticipate their next meal size. We show that contrasting availability of resources explain sexual segregation in lions, and appear to drive variations in their mating systems.