Dispersal status influences hormones and behavior in the male spotted hyena

Horm Behav. 1998 Jun;33(3):205-16. doi: 10.1006/hbeh.1998.1450.


Male spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) reach puberty at 24 months of age and then invariably emigrate from their natal clans 1 to 38 months later. Thus there are two classes of reproductively mature males in every Crocuta clan: adult natal males born in the clan and adult immigrant males born elsewhere. In one free-living hyena population in Kenya, these two groups of males were compared with respect to measures of aggression, social dominance, sexual behavior, and circulating hormone levels. Adult natal males engaged in higher hourly rates of aggression than did immigrants, won all fights with immigrants, and were socially dominant to immigrants. In addition, adult natal males engaged in far lower hourly rates of sexual behavior with resident females than did immigrants, and natal males were never observed to copulate with natal females. Mean basal plasma cortisol values did not differ between the two groups of adult males, but cortisol concentrations in immigrants were positively correlated with tenure in the clan and with immigrant male social rank. Adult natal males had plasma testosterone levels significantly lower than those of immigrants. Social rank and plasma testosterone values were positively correlated among immigrant males. Thus two different relationships appear to exist between circulating testosterone and social rank in male Crocuta: one apparent in immigrants and the other in natal adult males. Our results suggest that dispersal might disinhibit testosterone secretion in postpubertal male hyenas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Carnivora / physiology*
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology*
  • Social Dominance*
  • Testis / physiology
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Testosterone