Science

Where the females rule the roost

The lioness is the hunter, who brings the prey which is shared among the members of the pride.  

Tokyo got its first female governor recently. Taiwan got its first female President. Theresa May became the second woman prime minister of Britain, after Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton became the first woman presidential nominee in the U.S. The world currently boasts of 20 female leaders and it is reason enough to celebrate in a patriarchal society like ours – where the male hold primary power. But this is not the case in the animal kingdom. There are many species with the social structure where the female reign supreme.

Elephants, lions, spotted hyenas, meerkats, mole rats, killer whales, honey bees and ants to name a few.

Elephants

The oldest and largest female is the matriarch in a social group numbering to 10 or more elephants which mostly comprise of females (including other mothers) and young ones. The matriarch holds the position not just due to its age and power, but also due to its wisdom. She is an effective decision maker. She knows how to protect the herd from the predators: when to attack and when to defend. She also knows the sources of food and water. This knowledge and power is passed on to the daughters. When a matriarch dies, the eldest daughter takes over her position.

As far as the male adult is concerned, they live detached from this social group. They either live alone (and are called bulls) or form a group of two or more male individuals.

Within the group, when a calf is born. It becomes the centre of attention of the herd. All the female elephants irrespective of it being the calf’s mother or not, takes part in nurturing and protecting the new member. A male and female elephant come together for socialising and mating.

Lions

Unlike other wild felids, lions have a social group called a pride. Females form the stable social unit, with males sometimes becoming nomads. The pride comprise of related lioness and offsprings. The lioness is the hunter, who brings the prey which is shared among the members of the pride. However the male in the group is let to feed first. Lioness is smaller and swifter and is more agile than the male. When the lioness is out hunting, the lions watch over the cubs.

Queen bee

The activities in a beehive centre around the ‘queen bee’, who is the leader of the honey bee colony or hive. She is the mother of most of the bees in the hive, which comprise mostly of worker bees (females) and drones (males). The queen is selected by worker bees and specially fed to become fertile. The bees fiercely protect her and feed her. The queen is larger in size and lives upto 3 years, and the worker bees’ numbers may range in thousands. The queen ensures the survival of the hive. The male bee dies upon mating.


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 8:17:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/sh-science/Where-the-females-rule-the-roost/article14556884.ece

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