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Cooperative hunting occurs where a pair or group of animals coordinate their activites as part of their hunting behavior in order to improve their chances of making a kill and feeding. This type of cooperation is found in many species.

A pack hunter or social predator is a predator belonging to the animal kingdom, which has evolved to hunt its prey by working together with other members of its species. Normally animals hunting in this way are closely related, and with the singular exception of humans and chimpanzees where only males normally hunt, all individuals in a family group will contribute to hunting. The most commonly known pack hunter is the Gray Wolf, the ancestor of all breeds of domesticated dogs. Humans and their closest-living relatives chimpanzees are themselves pack hunters even without aid of other species. Other pack hunting mammals include dolphins, orcas, lions, dwarf and banded mongooses and hyenas. A number of avian social predators exist, including the Harris Hawk, butcherbirds, three of four kookaburra species and many helmetshrikes. There are a few cold-blooded pack hunters including simple arthropods such as army ants, the Yellow Saddle Goatfish[1] and occasionally crocodiles.[2] There is a possibility that some non-avian theropod dinosaurs displayed pack behavior as well.[3][4][5]



Amongst lions the lioness is the one who does the hunting for the pride. The male lion associated with the pride usually stays and watches its young while waiting for the lionesses to return from the hunt. Typically, several lionesses work together and encircle the herd from different points. Once they have closed with a herd, they usually target the closest prey. The attack is short and powerful; they attempt to catch the victim with a fast rush and final leap.


A 2009 publication, however, reported a detailed observation of cooperative hunting, wherein three male [[]fossas hunted a 3kg sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) for 45 minutes, and subsequently shared the prey. This behavior may be a vestige of cooperative hunting that would have been required to take down larger recently extinct lemurs.[6]


In 2009-2012 Vladimir Dinets documented the ability of crocodiles and alligators to use coordination and role separation during cooperative hunting.[7] In 2011 he obtained a Ph.D from University of Miami;[8]



File:Lysmata amboinensis cleans mouth of a Moray eel.jpg|thumb|A Pacific cleaner shrimp cleans the mouth of a moray eel.|alt=Photo of eel with shrimp in its mouth]]

File:Ribbon eel.jpg

Reef-associated roving coralgroupers (Plectropomus pessuliferus) have been observed to recruit moray eels to join them in hunting for food. The invitation to hunt is initiated by head-shaking. The rationale for this joining of forces is the ability of morays to enter narrow crevices and flush prey from niches not accessible to groupers. This is the only known instance of interspecies cooperative hunting among fish. Cooperation on other levels, such as at cleaning stations, is well-known.[9][10]

File:Gymnothorax fimbriatus.JPG

See alsoEdit

Social learning in animals


  1. Strübin, Carine; Steinegger, Marc and Bshary, Redouan; “On Group Living and Collaborative Hunting in the Yellow Saddle Goatfish (Parupeneus cyclostomus)” in Ethology 117 (11), November 2011, pp. 961–969
  6. (2009). An unusual case of cooperative hunting in a solitary carnivore. Journal of Ethology 28 (2): 379–383.
  7. Dinets, V. Coordination and collaboration in cooperatively hunting crocodilians. In press, Journal of Herpetology.
  9. In the December 2006 issue of the journal Public Library of Science Biology, a team of biologists announced the discovery of interspecies cooperative hunting involving morays. The biologists, who were engaged in a study of Red Sea cleaner fish (fish that enter the mouths of other fish to rid them of parasites), made the discovery.An Amazing First: Two Species Cooperate to Hunt | LiveScience
  10. Bshary R, Hohner A, Ait-el-Djoudi K, Fricke H (December 2006). Interspecific communicative and coordinated hunting between groupers and giant moray eels in the Red Sea. PLoS Biol. 4 (12): e431.