RESEARCH: Lions yawn when it’s time to get moving

In research conducted in 2020, scientists think that lions have contagious yawns – when one lion yawns, nearby lions yawn too. This is shown in human behaviour too. Also, scientists noticed that a lion’s yawn signals to other lions that it is time to get moving.

Scientist Elisabetta Palagi at the University of Pisa in Italy, and her research students, were collecting hyena data in South Africa. The New Scientist magazine in April 2021 reported that the researchers also filmed lion behaviour. Elisabetta Palagi noticed, when she watched the videos, that the lions were yawning one after the other and then got up and moved in near-synchroncity – that is, they all made similar movements. 

Palagi’s research students, Grazia Casett and Andrea Paolo Nolfo, observed 19 lions living in two social groups at the Siyafunda Wildlife & Conservation Camp, which is a research camp in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve in Limpopo province in South Africa. They took about five hours of video for each lion, day and night, over four months in 2020. 

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