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Weaning in an Arctic wolf pack: behavioral mechanisms

Canadian Journal of Zoology

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Abstract

If behavioral mechanisms controlling suckling have been shaped by parent-offspring conflict in the ultimate sense, then proximate behavioral determinants of conflict should occur throughout lactation, with greatest intensity in the terminal phase, and offspring should have tactics for overcoming parental resistance. We observed the weaning process in a habituated wild wolf pack (Canis lupus) on Ellesmere Island, Canada, from estimated ages 5 through 10 weeks (including a continuous record for 192 h). The following variables declined with age: percentage of suckling bouts initiated by the nurser, persistence by pups, and mean duration of suckling bouts. Variables that increased with age were interbout interval, percentage of suckling bouts terminated by the nurser, and wincing or agonistic actions of the nurser. Behavioral conflict appeared in the develop mental stage (estimated age 7 -8 weeks) during which pups could feed on opened carcasses. Countertactics by pups to obtain milk were not apparent, although the pups developed diverse tactics for obtaining and sharing meat. In this group of wolves, weaning mechanisms were a complex function of food-delivery by adults, discomfort of the nursing female as pups developed, and declining persistence of pups. If there is a conflict over what is optimal for pups and for the nurser in the ultimate sense, behavioral conflict is more likely to be expressed with regard to access to meat, or as conditional tactics dependent on food availability, rather than weaning conflict being controlleg by fixed rules in this species.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Weaning in an Arctic wolf pack: behavioral mechanisms
Series title:
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Volume
70
Issue:
7
Year Published:
1992
Language:
English
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description:
1269-1275
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Canadian Journal of Zoology
First page:
1269
Last page:
1275
Number of Pages:
7