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Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00443

Fitness consequences of innovation in spotted hyenas

  • 1Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior Program, Michigan State University, United States
  • 2Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Science, Michigan State University, United States
  • 3Department of Zoology and Physiology. University of Wyoming, United States

Innovation is a well-studied cognitive ability related to general intelligence, brain size, and behavioral flexibility. Innovative ability varies considerably within species and it is widely assumed that this variation must have important fitness consequences. However, direct evidence for a link between innovation and fitness has rarely been shown. Previous research examined variation in innovation in wild spotted hyenas when confronting a novel puzzle box baited with meat. The earlier work revealed that variation in innovation in spotted hyenas was not related to age, sex, or social rank, but was predicted by neophobia, persistence, and diversity of motor responses to the puzzle. Here, we used the same dataset from wild spotted hyenas to investigate potential links between innovation and fitness. We found that innovative hyenas had lower offspring survivorship than non-innovators, but higher annual cub production (ACP). To test the hypothesis that high ACP can compensate for low offspring survival, we also measured annual cub survivorship (ACS) counting only offspring that survived at least 1 year. Here, there was no significant difference between innovators and non-innovators, which suggests that higher ACP does compensate for lower offspring survival, at least to one year of age. Overall, our data suggest that innovation may have both costs and benefits for fitness in wild spotted hyenas.

Keywords: innovation, fitness, Spotted hyena (crocuta crocuta), Survival, Reproductive success

Received: 11 Sep 2019; Accepted: 31 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Johnson-Ulrich, Benson-Amram and Holekamp. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Lily Johnson-Ulrich, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 48824, Michigan, United States,