Horses, Donkeys, Antilopes and Bovines seem to have an evolutionary advantage in growing masses of hair on top (and sometimes below) the neck. Is that to hinder predators biting?

  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind there is not much to the mane in wild equids it is only the human bred populations that have large manes. Also since you are talking about very different groups with very different mane structure the answer may be different for each. I suggest moving antelope and bovids to a seperate question. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 3 '19 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps it can prevent predators from wrapping the claw over the top of the neck while biting the throat, except that predators often bite anywhere on the side and hind and ears and whatever they can catch to ground the zebra first. Perhaps it's to do with amplifying the size to make them look taller and stronger. strong animals have very strong necks. $\endgroup$ – com.prehensible Nov 4 '19 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ @John Todays Eqids have dense standing manes, as had undomesticated wild horses (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauvet_Cave#/media/… ). Similaritys with those of e.g. sable antelopes look like convergent evolution and may well be the point. $\endgroup$ – HannesH Nov 4 '19 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @HannesH except you don't know if it is convergent evolution. manes vary a lot in size, placement, and stiffness across all those groups while equid manes are all almost identical outside domestication. . $\endgroup$ – John Nov 4 '19 at 23:52

I am not aware of the evolutionary advantage of the mane in the animals that you mention. In fact, the only reference I could find talks about a predator, not a prey, and thus it might indicate that mane is not mainly an adaptation against predation. I also want to mention that not every trait in every animal is advantageous at the current moment, many traits are 'vestiges' from previous adaptations (or maladaptations). In this case, however, the widespread appearance of the trait in different animal groups might indicate that it is in fact adaptive.

The evolution of mane in the lion seems to be related to sexual selection, as only male lions have mane, but there are competing hypothesis too, in that it appears that the ancestor of the lion was mane-less, and thus the appearance of mane only in lions (and not in other felines) might have been a product of drift (maybe through a bottleneck).

The evolution of mane in other groups of animals might have also been relevant for sexual selection, as it seems that the ancestors of horses had no mane, and thus something that most 'maned' animals have in common is the selective pressure to reproduce and have the mane perhaps as a secondary sexual character indicative of sexual maturation -as it occurs with lions- (I clarify that this is only my own speculation).

  • $\begingroup$ I believe the reason male lions have a mane is to protect their neck from damaging bites from other males (males fight over territory and females). Given that the manes of other animals, such as horses are also on the neck, a region that large predators often seem to target, I wouldn't be surprised if they are for the same purpose - i.e. - to protect against bites. $\endgroup$ – Tim Foster Oct 3 '19 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @TimFoster except the horses mane is the least useful place for stopping bite damage to the neck. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 6 '19 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ @John, not sure what you mean, a dorsal neck bite is a common predator strategy, you see it on nature programs all the time $\endgroup$ – Tim Foster Oct 7 '19 at 10:33
  • $\begingroup$ @TimFoster a "dorsal" neck bite is not biting through the top of the neck, it is biting the sides of the neck. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 7 '19 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @John based on a bit of Googling, it looks like biting the back of the neck in order to break or damage the spine is pretty common. $\endgroup$ – Tim Foster Oct 7 '19 at 13:41

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