Wolf nannies shorten male pups’ sex lives: Study

October 24th, 2010 - 1:16 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 24 (ANI): A new study has revealed that non-breeding wolves that help raise pups ultimately shorten the sex lives of the male pups when they grow up.

“The negative impact to males was certainly not what we expected to find,” Wired.com quoted Amanda Sparkman of the Trent University, as saying.

The work could help conservationists maintain reintroduced populations of Canis rufus rufus, as the red wolf is known, which first became extinct in the wild about 30 years ago.

But Sparkman said it could add another tool to chip away at the genetics behind mammals that contribute to raising juveniles that aren’t their own.

“In the context of cooperative breeding, there’s some fascinating evolutionary biology going on there.

“More work could help us understand the key problem of why these wolves are cooperative breeders, along with about 3 percent of mammals and 3 percent of birds,” said Sparkman.

“[Conservationists] took the last few individuals into a captive breeding program, however, and it has been one of the most successful to date,” said Sparkman.

Wild red wolves live anywhere from four to seven years, with old-timers lasting as long as 13 years. Most pups stick around their pack for a year or two, sometimes nannying their younger siblings each spring before heading out on their own to find a mate and start their own pack.

Using pedigrees and other data from captured and radio-collared wolves, Sparkman discovered nannied pups survived more often and stuck around their packs about a year longer than non-nannied wolves.

What’s more, nannied females grew up smaller but enjoyed reproductive lifespans nearly double that of non-nannied she-wolves. Males cared for by pack members outside of their parents grew bigger than other pups, yet their sex lives were almost halved.

“This may tie in to other studies about metabolism,” Sparkman said, noting faster aging could be a cost for being bigger.

“So, smaller females may live and breed longer because their metabolic cost is less,” he added.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Conversely. (ANI)

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