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15 May 2018 Multiple breeding individuals within groups in a social carnivore
David E. Ausband
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Breeding strategies of cooperative breeders can vary widely ranging from multiple breeding pairs in a group, to polygamy, polyandry, and combinations of all 3 forms. Often, we do not have a clear understanding of the influences or mechanisms giving rise to the presence of multiple breeding individuals within groups. This is particularly true for animals that are difficult to manipulate or observe, such as large carnivores. I examined factors associated with the occurrence of multiple breeding individuals within groups in a population of recolonizing gray wolves (Canis lupus). Additionally, I investigated what might affect pup recruitment in groups with multiple breeding females. I used population monitoring data for wolves in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States as well as genetic pedigree data for a subset of wolf groups that contained multiple breeding females in Idaho. High wolf density and large group size were both associated with a significant increase in the frequency of multiple breeding females in a group. The probability a pup survived their first year was related positively to the number of breeding females in a group. Multiple breeding can also take the form of polyandry, and “sneaker” males were responsible for paternity in nearly 13% of pups born. Breeding strategies in this social carnivore may be more variable than previously assumed, but their occurrence can be predicted by group size and density. Wolf population projection models and studies regarding reproduction and cooperative breeding in wolves would benefit by incorporating the potential for multiple breeding individuals. Genetic models in particular will be more reliable if they incorporate the potential effect of sneaker males on genetic diversity in a population.

© 2018 American Society of Mammalogists,
David E. Ausband "Multiple breeding individuals within groups in a social carnivore," Journal of Mammalogy 99(4), 836-844, (15 May 2018).
Received: 11 January 2018; Accepted: 26 April 2018; Published: 15 May 2018

Canis lupus
cooperative breeding
gray wolf
multiple breeding
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