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Notes from Holekamp Lab in Kenya: Meet the south clan

The Mara Hyena Project was established by former EEB director and core faculty member Kay Holekamp in 1988 and has been studying the South Clan since 2008. The group has two research camps in the Maasai Mara - one based in the Main Reserve, near Talek Town, and one based in the Triangle, near Serena Lodge.

The integrative biology group is broadly interested in the ecology, behavior, and evolution of spotted hyenas. Right now, members are working on a large-scale research project to understand how communication drives coordination and decision-making in spotted hyena societies. To do so, all hyenas 18 months or older in a single clan - the South Clan - are collared. These collars will record the GPS locations, activity levels, and vocalizations for every hyena in the clan for over one month. 

Female hyena ISSA
ISSA is the two-year-old daughter of the matriarch SNUG, identified by color code on the collar.

Spotted hyenas live in complex fission-fusion groups with stable dominance hierarchies. The fission-fusion dynamics of hyena society allow individuals to avoid competition at carcasses without sacrificing the benefits of group defense against neighboring hyenas and other competitors. The Holekamp lab wants to see how their vocalizations function to recruit clan-mates for group hunts and defense against lions and neighboring hyena clans.

The group invites visitors who spot the distinctive color-coded collars to report to the lab.

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