In what would be considered an absolute atrocity in the human world, male lions kill cubs that are the offspring of the former leader of the pride when they take over as ruler. This is of course something that wouldn’t sit very well with a lot of people, especially if a man done it to their new partners children. So why exactly do male lions kill cubs that aren’t theirs?
Think about it for a moment. What is the purpose for breeding? For humans there’s a significant level of fun involved in something that can be somewhat exhausting. But in the animal kingdom, sex and fun sin’t necessarily the normal experience. The main purpose is to pass on their genetic code, in the hope that they will create a stronger pride.
So you might be wondering how passing on their genetic code can make for a stronger pride? Well, to become the leader of a pride of lions isn’t exactly a simple task. It generally means that the male is the strongest and fittest male available. That is a great thing to have, and to pass onto your offspring. Clearly if the offspring of the strongest male lion have his genes, they stand a better chance of survival in the harshness of the African Serengeti. But this only half answers the question. What’s the rest of it?
One word answers it, competition. Before the male lion was the dominant member of the pride, another lion was, and that lion ascended the throne in the same way, by being the strongest and fittest. Much like the medieval kings of old, a potential claimant to the throne could pose a significant risk in the future. The only way to secure his own lineage is to eliminate all possible stake holders that could challenge his own offspring. It’s for this reason that a male lion kills cubs of the former leader of the pride. However, the females are clever.
If a female lion is pregnant when a new king is crowned, she will be able to raise the cub as the new male lions offspring, a bit like an episode of Maury. Some females are even able to hide their cubs from the new male sire and raise it. This leads to the male often raising cubs that are not his own.
But it you are thinking that the harsh killing of cubs for his own security is as bad a a male lion can get, it’s not. In fact, they would hardly win any father of the year awards.
Just like many deadbeat dads, they are lazy and self obsessed. Their only real job is to protect their territory from other predators and to breed. They rarely hunt, and when a meal is caught, they will be the first to eat. And they aren’t particularly generous with the leftovers either. They will often just leave the scraps for the rest of the pride.