skip to main content

Title: Early‐life relationships matter: Social position during early life predicts fitness among female spotted hyenas
; ; ;
Farine, Damien
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The journal of animal ecology
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. How social development in early-life affects fitness remains poorly understood. 2. Though there is growing evidence that early-life relationships can affect fitness, little research has investigated how social positions develop or whether there are particularly important periods for social position development in an animal's life history. In long-lived species in particular, understanding the lasting consequences of early-life social environments requires detailed, long-term datasets. 3. Here we used a 25-year dataset to test whether social positions held during early development predicted adult fitness. Specifically, we quantified social position using three social network metrics: degree, strength and betweenness. We determined the social position of each individual in three types of networks during each of three stages of ontogeny to test whether they predict annual reproductive success (ARS) or longevity among adult female spotted hyenas Crocuta crocuta. 4. The social positions occupied by juvenile hyenas did predict their fitness, but the effects of social position on fitness measures differed between stages of early development. Network metrics when individuals were young adults better predicted ARS, but network metrics for younger animals, particularly when youngsters were confined to the communal den, better predicted longevity than did metrics assessed during other stages of development. 5. Ourmore »study shows how multiple types of social bonds formed during multiple stages of social development predict lifetime fitness outcomes. We suggest that social bonds formed during specific phases of development may be more important than others when considering fitness outcomes.« less
  2. Abstract Studies in rodents and captive primates suggest that the early-life social environment affects future phenotype, potentially through alterations to DNA methylation. Little is known of these associations in wild animals. In a wild population of spotted hyenas, we test the hypothesis that maternal care during the first year of life and social connectedness during two periods of early development leads to differences in DNA methylation and fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCMs) later in life. Here we report that although maternal care and social connectedness during the den-dependent life stage are not associated with fGCMs, greater social connectedness during the subadult den-independent life stage is associated with lower adult fGCMs. Additionally, more maternal care and social connectedness after den independence correspond with higher global (%CCGG) DNA methylation. We also note differential DNA methylation near 5 genes involved in inflammation, immune response, and aging that may link maternal care with stress phenotype.