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Male and Female Partner Preferences in a Captive Wolf Pack (Canis Lupus) : Specificity Versus Spread of Sexual Attention

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image of Behaviour

Strong pair-bonding is typical for canids. In wolf packs consisting of several adult males and females, sexual interests may clash during the mating season. We expect that not only dominance-subordinance relationships but also partner preferences play a prominent role in the establishment of pair bonds in wolves. The objective of our study is to disentangle male and female components in the establishment of sexual relationships, and, in particular, the influence of partner preferences. A first-approach model suggests that males will attempt to maximize the number of fertilizations, whereas females will be selective in partner choice. We therefore determined behavioural measures of partner preference for each sex; namely 'Following sexually' in males and 'Presenting actively' in females. Matings corresponded more to the male than the female preferences. Males initiated courtship, whereas females influenced pair-bonding more by proceptive behaviour and by the rejection of male courtship. Whereas the dominant males focused more on one preferred female at a time, and might eventually switch and direct their preference to another female, the dominant females, and particularly the alpha female, spread their sexual interests over several males and associate with more than one male at a time. The ultimate reason for this might be that, in this way, a female promotes care-giving towards herself and her offspring by creating a 'paternity illusion' in those males.

Affiliations: 1: Ethology & Socio-ecology Group, Utrecht University, PO Box 80086, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands


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