Saturday, 6 June 2015

A clue about how humans domesticated wolves?

A most interesting article has just been published which shows wolves, which could eat gelada monkey infants hunting among gelada monkey herds without alarming the monkeys - although the monkeys would take appropriate action if different predators appeared. It would seem that the wolves see a benefit in hunting rodents if the monkeys are around, and if something similar happened in early human society it could well lead to domestication of the wolves. The article noes not indicate what benefit the monkeys get from the arrangement - but presumably there is some advantage.

Details of the article:

Solitary Ethiopian wolves increase predation success on rodents when among grazing gelada monkey herds

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DOI: 129-137 First published online: 27 March 2015                      


Mixed-species associations generally form to increase foraging success or to aid in the detection and deterrence of predators. While mixed-species associations are common among mammals, those involving carnivorous predators and potential prey species are seldom reported. On the Guassa Plateau, in the Ethiopian highlands, we observed solitary Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) foraging for rodents among grazing gelada monkey (Theropithecus gelada) herds. The tolerant and sometimes prolonged (> 1h) associations contrasted with the defensive behaviors exhibited by geladas toward other potential predators. Ethiopian wolves spent a higher proportion of time foraging and preyed more successfully on rodents when among geladas than when alone, providing evidence that gelada herds increase the vulnerability of subterranean rodents to predation. Ethiopian wolves appear to habituate gelada herds to their presence through nonthreatening behavior, thereby foregoing opportunistic foraging opportunities upon vulnerable juvenile geladas in order to feed more effectively on rodents. For Ethiopian wolves, establishing proximity to geladas as foraging commensals could be an adaptive strategy to elevate foraging success. The novel dynamics documented here shed light on the ecological circumstances that contribute to the stability of mixed groups of predators and potential prey.

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