The Social Components and Physiology of Cooperative Hunting in Grey Wolves
Wolves elaborately cooperate over raising offspring, hunting and territorial defence. Social carnivores may indeed be superior to apes or monkeys as models for investigating the biology of cooperation. This PhD project would make use of a unique resource worldwide, provided by the Wolf Science Centre: more than a dozen well trained grey wolves and a number of equally raised dogs can be employed in a variety of experiments. A treadmill allows to stage experimental social hunts. Basic questions are how much energy different individuals would invest in hunting, how that affects their readiness to share food and to cooperate in other tasks after the hunt, how personality, sex, life history or social context affect investment in hunting, etc.
We recently showed that the relationship between dogs and their owners and the practical operationality of dyads mainly depends on owner personality and attitude as well as dyadic sex distribution. For example, owners high in “neuroticism” (NEO-FFI-axis 1) maintained an affective relationship with their dogs, appreciating them mainly as social supporters. Their dogs showed low cortisol values, but the dyadic performance in a practical task was also low. Human-animal dyads indeed, provide model insights into the principles of long-term vertebrate dyadic relationship.