Friday, July 22, 2016

It's an Alien Invasion!

Many here in the Mara come to associate the months of June, July, and August with the influx of seas of wildebeest, Thomson's gazelle, zebra, more wildebeest, elands, topi, and yet MORE wildebeest, among others.

Have I mentioned there's lots of wildebeest yet?
But following these great herds, another intruder from a far distant land probes its way into the region. Having left its mothership far behind, this wanderer traverses the vast plains of the savanna, looking for any sign of intelligent life - a new home perhaps, a new family into which it may be abducted.

Back at home for our Talek hyenas, small signs of change begin to appear. Perhaps that crunching of bones around the corner isn't coming from your cousin, but from another life form, someone strange and new. And following the droves of food, more and more begin to arrive, peering in on your family with an eager and inquisitive eye. Beware: the alien males are invading!

AL516 was first sighted on July 4th. Our very own Independence Day invasion!
While the migration is primarily herbivorous in nature, it provides an ideal opportunity for dispersing males to find a new home and new clan by following the rich source of food. As these individuals follow the herd, they may slowly begin to drop off into new territories they find suitable, if and only if the natal hyenas accept them into the clan ranks.

As a result of this, our researchers have been bombarded with sighting after sighting of these wandering aliens (as if ID-ing for this new researcher wasn't hard enough!). And if they do choose to associate themselves with our Talek clan and try to stay in the region, they face a monumental task. A newcomer into the clan automatically falls to the bottom of the rank hierarchy and must battle constant aggressions from higher ranked females trying to ensure the security of their land and food sources for them and their families. Gradually, a lucky male with the right amount of appeasement (and a whole bunch of polite behavior) will come to be accepted into the clan. If we at Fisi Camp see an alien hanging out with the clan at least 3 times, he will be given a name and the attachment will be official in our books!

NYC is the most recent addition to Talek Clan and likes to hang out with the Pond hyenas. Who will be next?
For the size of Talek clan in its entirety, the number of immigrant males is relatively small in proportion, comprising perhaps 10% of the current population. To be accepted into the clan, though fundamental to the prevention of inbreeding while mating, is rare considering the tradeoffs involved with sharing food and resources with a stranger. Over the past month of research, our forays into Talek territory have brought us into contact with at least 6 aliens, and the migration is just beginning. Who, if anyone, will join the ranks of our clan this season? Which of our natal males will adopt a nomadic lifestyle and wander away with the migration to invade far off territories?

Stay tuned to find out!


dee said...

Fun post! What are the next cities you will use when you name the newcomers?

Rebecca LaFleur said...

I think my hometown, Traverse City is next!

Uncle Ron said...

Such an awesome sight! Hundreds and hundreds of wildebeast as far as the eye can see! How cool is that?

Linda said...

Lovely photos. Great post.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science