12:24 21 October 2010 by Sonia Van Gilder Cooke
In a wolf pack, lots of sibling babysitters can lead to plump, healthy cubs. But too much pampering makes male wolves less successful in later life.To understand the effects of sibling helpers on wolf cubs throughout their lives, Amanda Sparkman from Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues studied reintroduced red wolves roaming North Carolina by trapping them to record their size and body weight and monitoring their life histories.
The researchers studied the wolves when the reintroduced population was just starting out and few in number, and again when the wolves had spread throughout the area and were to be found at higher densities.When wolves were scarce and prey abounded, pups with "helpers" – older siblings still in the family unit – fared better than those without: they were heavier and larger than their helper-less counterparts. At high densities, however, ...
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