Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Yellowstone wolf study reveals how to raise successful offspring

Date:
October 11, 2012
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
What are the key ingredients to raising successful, self-sufficient offspring? A new life sciences study using 14 years of data of wolves in Yellowstone indicates cooperative group behavior is key.

Yellowstone wolves. Members of the Yellowstone's Druid Peak pack on boundary patrol.
Credit: Dan Stahler/NPS

What are the key ingredients to raising successful, self-sufficient offspring? A new life sciences study using 14 years of data on gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park indicates that cooperative group behavior and a mother's weight are crucial.

"A female's body weight is key in the survival of her offspring, and cooperation in the protection and feeding of young pups pays off in terms of the production of offspring," said Robert Wayne, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and co-author of the new research, published this week in the online edition of the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Wolves are social carnivores that live in territorial, kin-structured packs. Female wolves depend on other adults in the pack to help them provide food for their pups and defend the youngsters from predators -- mainly, competing packs of wolves. The greater the group cooperation, the researchers say, the better the pack's survival advantage.

"Consequently, larger packs tend to get larger and win the 'arms race' of holding territories against the aggressive actions of other packs," Wayne said. "Large packs get better at building armies of soldiers to defend their turf, and cooperative behavior and sociality are maintained by natural selection."

Wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone Park in the mid-1990s and are rapidly becoming one of the best-studied carnivore populations in the world; they are turning out to be an excellent model for the study of sociality and cooperation, Wayne said.

Over many years of intensive collaborative study, former UCLA graduate student Dan Stahler (now a biologist with the National Park Service) and former UCLA postdoctoral scholar Bridgett vonHoldt (who worked in Wayne's laboratory and will soon become an assistant professor at Princeton University) analyzed genetic and life-history data on more than 300 gray wolves. They assessed survivorship and reproductive success, as well as the factors that influenced them, including body weight and pack size, among other variables. They found a striking association between pack size, body weight and offspring survival.

"We discovered that mother wolves' body weight and pack size play a crucial role in enabling pups to survive and thrive from birth to young adulthood," said Utah State University assistant professor of wildlife resources Dan MacNulty, a co-author of the study.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Park Service and the Yellowstone Park Foundation, as well as private donors.

Environmental conditions that impact wolf reproduction, the researchers say, include resource availability, population density and disease prevalence -- especially deadly canine distemper, caused by a contagious virus to which pups are especially vulnerable.

In addition to body weight and pack size, the researchers examined the effects of maternal age and color (gray or black coat) and wolf population size on reproductive success.

"Each of these factors affects reproduction, but, overwhelmingly, female body weight and pack size are the main drivers of litter size and pup survival," said Stahler, the study's lead author. "Bigger females produce bigger litters; bigger packs are better equipped to hunt and defend pups and resources from competitors."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel R. Stahler, Daniel R. MacNulty, Robert K. Wayne, Bridgett vonHoldt, Douglas W. Smith. The adaptive value of morphological, behavioural and life-history traits in reproductive female wolves. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2012.02039.x

Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "Yellowstone wolf study reveals how to raise successful offspring." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011102252.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2012, October 11). Yellowstone wolf study reveals how to raise successful offspring. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011102252.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "Yellowstone wolf study reveals how to raise successful offspring." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011102252.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins