Aggression and hierarchical steepness inhibit social play in adult wolves

in Behaviour
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In canids, play dynamics seem to be more affected by dominance hierarchy rather than cooperative social bonds. To test this hypothesis we studied a colony of grey wolves (Canis lupus lupus). We quantified the dynamics of aggression and hierarchical changes in two periods (Sample 1 and Sample 2). Sample 2 was characterized by higher level of aggressiveness and by a more strict and steep linear hierarchy. The negative correlation between rank distance and play frequency characterizing both periods and the higher play asymmetry in Sample 2 suggest that rank rules dictate play rules thus highlighting the competitive side of wolf play behaviour. The overall affiliation rates showed no variation between the two samples. Yet, play performance was modified. In Sample 2, wolves reduced playful activity, limited the number of players per session and avoided playing during high competition contexts. Our findings support the hypothesis that wolf play is modulated by dominance relationships more than by cooperative social bonds.

Aggression and hierarchical steepness inhibit social play in adult wolves

in Behaviour

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Figures

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    Boxplots showing the median hourly frequency of aggression in the two periods considered for the study. Solid horizontal lines indicate medians; length of the boxes corresponds to inter-quartile range; thin horizontal lines indicate range of observed values.

  • View in gallery

    Normalized David’s scores plotted against rank order. The graphs (output of Steepness 2.2) show normalized David’s scores (corrected for chance, based on aggression sociomatrices) plotted against ordinal rank order (dashed black line), and the fitted line (black, solid line) for the study group of wolves in Sample 1 (a) and in Sample 2 (b). The y-axes give the Normalized David’s scores and the subjects are given on the x-axes.

  • View in gallery

    Boxplots showing the median values of Play Asymmetry Index (PAI) in the two periods considered for the study. Solid horizontal lines indicate medians; length of the boxes corresponds to inter-quartile range; thin horizontal lines indicate range of observed values.

  • View in gallery

    Boxplots showing the median hourly frequency of social play in the two periods considered for the study. Solid horizontal lines indicate medians; length of the boxes corresponds to inter-quartile range; thin horizontal lines indicate range of observed values.

  • View in gallery

    Boxplots showing the median number of polyadic play sessions on the total number of sessions in the two periods considered for the study. Solid horizontal lines indicate medians; length of the boxes corresponds to inter-quartile range; thin horizontal lines indicate range of observed values.

  • View in gallery

    Boxplots showing the median hourly frequency of social play during the four conditions in Sample 1 (a) and in Sample 2 (b). Solid horizontal lines indicate medians; length of the boxes corresponds to inter-quartile range; thin horizontal lines indicate range of observed values. PRE = pre-feeding; FEED = feeding; POST = post-feeding; CONTROL = outside feeding context (see the text for the temporal definition of each condition). The results of the Dunnet’s post-hoc tests are: Sample 1: PRE vs FEED, q=3.28, p<0.01; PRE vs POST, q=4.24, p<0.01; PRE vs C, q=0.69, p>0.05; FEED vs POST, q=0.00, p>0.05; FEED vs C, q=3.76, p<0.01; POST vs C, q=5.31, p<0.01; Sample 2, PRE vs FEED, q=2.85, p<0.01; PRE vs POST, q=2.92, p<0.01; PRE vs C, q=3.18, p<0.01; FEED vs POST, q=1.76, p>0.05; FEED vs C, q=1.65, p>0.05; POST vs C, q=0.84, p>0.05.

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