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PROXIMATE EXPLANATIONS FOR FAILED PACK FORMATION IN LYCAON PICTUS

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Among the most social of all canids, the endangered African wild dog lives in packs in which the alpha pair typically monopolizes breeding while nonreproductive members help care for the offspring. Consequently, the size of the breeding population is directly related to the number of packs in the population. Although the formation of new packs affects both individual fitness and population dynamics, little is known about the process of pack formation and the proximate factors that influence the outcome. In this paper, seven cases of attempted pack formation are documented, of which four failed. Three possible explanations for pack annulment are considered: group size, mate competition, and mate choice (i.e. group compatibility). Our observations suggest that group compatibility can influence whether stable reproductive units form. The influence of individual behavior, via the process of pack formation, on population dynamics is discussed. The potential conservation application of the theoretical study of wild dog pack formation is highlighted.

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