Social behavior an oxytocin in lions

Female lions hunt together, raise their young communally and defend joint territories. Lacking any sort of dominance hierarchy, females also provide one of the few examples of an egalitarian social system. These behaviors likely correspond to fine-scale neurological traits that underpin a greater tolerance for conspecifics and a refined “social intelligence.” Oxytocin and dopamine are known to influence affective behaviors and social cognition, so I am experimentally testing whether lions show a greater sensitivity to oxytocin than other big cat species, and I am also measuring oxytocin and dopamine receptors in the brains of euthanized lions, leopards and tigers. By clarifying species-specific processing of fear, cognition, and reward, my research could assist the design of successful carnivore reintroductions into new habitats or novel captive settings.

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