Lifetime reproductive characteristics of gray wolves

Journal of Mammalogy



Female and male cooperative breeders can use different strategies to maximize reproduction and fitness over their lifetimes. Answering questions about fitness in cooperative breeders requires long-term studies as well as complete data on group composition and size which can be exceedingly difficult to obtain. Using a long-term genetic data set of complete group pedigrees, I asked how lifetime reproductive characteristics of female and male gray wolves (Canis lupus) differed. I predicted that genetic relatedness to helpers would be higher for females than males due to philopatric behavior of female wolves, group size would be similar between the sexes, females would inherit breeding positions from within groups more often than males due to differences in dispersal strategies between the sexes, males would have more lifetime mates and produce more young than females because of polygamy, and females would breed for more years than males due to the likelihood that females would still breed (with a new partner) after a mate died or was expelled from the group. I documented complete lifetime breeding histories for 11 male and 18 female wolves in Idaho, United States, 2008 to 2018. Genetic relatedness to helpers, group size, number of mates, pups, and years breeding did not differ between the sexes. Females, however, inherited breeding positions within groups far more often than males. Individuals who secured breeding positions generally reproduced for 2 seasons and commonly had more than 1 partner during their lifetimes if they were able to maintain their breeding position longer. Direct fitness varied greatly within female and male breeding wolves.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Lifetime reproductive characteristics of gray wolves
Series title Journal of Mammalogy
DOI 10.1093/jmammal/gyae042
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Oxford Academic
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description gyae042, 6 p.
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