Nature vs. nurture: Evidence for social learning of conflict behaviour in grizzly bears

PLoS ONE
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

The propensity for a grizzly bear to develop conflict behaviours might be a result of social learning between mothers and cubs, genetic inheritance, or both learning and inheritance. Using non-invasive genetic sampling, we collected grizzly bear hair samples during 2011–2014 across southwestern Alberta, Canada. We targeted private agricultural lands for hair samples at grizzly bear incident sites, defining an incident as an occurrence in which the grizzly bear caused property damage, obtained anthropogenic food, or killed or attempted to kill livestock or pets. We genotyped 213 unique grizzly bears (118 M, 95 F) at 24 microsatellite loci, plus the amelogenin marker for sex. We used the program COLONY to assign parentage. We evaluated 76 mother-offspring relationships and 119 father-offspring relationships. We compared the frequency of problem and non-problem offspring from problem and non-problem parents, excluding dependent offspring from our analysis. Our results support the social learning hypothesis, but not the genetic inheritance hypothesis. Offspring of problem mothers are more likely to be involved in conflict behaviours, while offspring from non-problem mothers are not likely to be involved in incidents or human-bear conflicts themselves (Barnard’s test, p = 0.05, 62.5% of offspring from problem mothers were problem bears). There was no evidence that offspring are more likely to be involved in conflict behaviour if their fathers had been problem bears (Barnard’s test, p = 0.92, 29.6% of offspring from problem fathers were problem bears). For the mother-offspring relationships evaluated, 30.3% of offspring were identified as problem bears independent of their mother’s conflict status. Similarly, 28.6% of offspring were identified as problem bears independent of their father’s conflict status. Proactive mitigation to prevent female bears from becoming problem individuals likely will help prevent the perpetuation of conflicts through social learning.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Nature vs. nurture: Evidence for social learning of conflict behaviour in grizzly bears
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0165425
Volume 11
Issue 11
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Public Library of Science
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description Article e0165425; 15 p.
Country Canada
State Alberta