Hyenas and lions share a high level of diet overlapping and are often in direct competition for the same food resources. Lions are bigger and stronger than hyenas, which puts hyenas at risk of injury or death during competitive interactions for food. However, the potential benefits are overweighting the risk of injury from lions.
Lions and hyenas are primarily crepuscular and nocturnal predators (active at dusk and at night) with at least 80% overlapping in their daily activities.
The population densities of lions and spotted hyenas are primarily influenced by the abundance of prey and are positively correlated in certain areas. Hyenas seem to benefit from sharing territories with lions.
Competitor avoidance is a behavioral strategy that reduces the probability of encounters within the foraging range of potentially deadly rivals, thus enhancing the survivorship and fitness of the individual. However, avoidance of competitors is likely to invoke costs, such as a reduction in activity, a 90 percent reduction in foraging rate or efficiency, or an increase in the use of refugedue to the perceived risk of predation.
Lions can hunt larger prey than hyenas, but large groups of hyenas have adapted to hunting migratory prey in the Serengeti with a unique system of movement. Hyenas were active after sunset and from midnight to sunrise, while lions were active all night from 10:00 p.m. to sunrise and after sunrise. Therefore, the two predators can evade each other by using the same prey-rich areas but at different times.
Furthermore, both species employ differences in their hunting behavior, with hyenas mainly hunting large groups of prey and selecting target animals from rushing herds, while lions mainly employ stalk-and-ambush tactics of small herds of prey. Thus, lions have the advantage in closed habitats while hyenas are likely to benefit from open habitats due to their way of speed hunting.
While the patterns of spatial and temporal overlap observed between lions and hyenas do not differ from previous studies; combining patterns of space use, temporal activity, fine-scale habitat use differentiation, and localized reactive avoidance behaviors in response to the potential risk of competition, revealed the complex dynamics between lions and spotted hyenas within a system of apex predators,
The two species also differ in their hunting behavior, with hyenas mainly chasing large groups of prey, lions mainly use stalking and ambush tactics from small prey packs. Therefore, lions have an advantage in dense habitats while hyenas are likely to take advantage of open habitats due to their fast hunting technique.
The results add to the growing evidences showing that coexistence among carnivores is facilitated by fine-scale behavioral mechanisms in addition to spatial (spatial) and temporal (temporal) division. The combination of space-use patterns, temporal activity, fine-scale habitat-use differentiation, and localized reactive avoidance behavior in response to potential competitive risks has revealed the complex dynamics between lions and hyenas.
As large carnivores are increasingly confined to sanctuaries, it is important to note that lions and hyenas do not respond equally to interspecific and intraspecific interactions between heterogeneous and homogeneous environments. In particular, the movement decisions and behavioral responses of lions and hyenas adapt to different systems and are likely the result of multiple factors, including habitat complexity, hunting strategies, and active avoidance.
Therefore, we encourage conservation professionals to recognize the importance of the potential effects of entire intraspecific interactions between apex predators in the management of diverse ecological communities.