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Abstract

Two free-ranging packs of dholes (Asiatic wild dog, Cuon alpinus) were monitored for a period of 6 yr (Sep. 1990-Sep. 1996) in the Mudumalai sanctuary, southern India. Demographic data on age structure, litter-size, sex ratio and age and sex specific dispersal were collected. Behavioural data on social interactions and reproductive behaviour among pack members were obtained to determine the frequencies of dominant and subordinate behaviours shown by male and female pack members and a measure of each male's reproductive access to females. Behaviours displayed by pack members at dens were recorded to determine whether any age- or sex-specific role specialization existed during pup care. Tenures for dominant males and females within the pack were calculated to ascertain the rate of breeding vacancies occurring within packs. Approximate levels of genetic relatedness within packs were determined by studying pedigrees.

In most years one study pack had a male-biased adult sex ratio. This was caused by almost two-fold higher dispersal of adult females over adult males. A considerable variance existed in the percentage of sub-adults dispersing from the two packs. Differences existed in the frequencies of dominant and subordinate behaviours shown by males. For males, dominance ranks and ranks based on submissive behaviours were not correlated with frequencies of reproductive behaviours. Subordinate males also displayed reproductive behaviours. In packs, dominant males had lower tenures than dominant females indicating that among males breeding vacancies arose more quickly. The litter size was found to be negatively correlated with the age of the breeding female. There were no significant differences across individuals of varying age or sex classes in the display of pup care behaviours. Significant differences did exist among individual adults. Genetic relatedness among packs tended to vary temporally as a consequence of possible mating by subordinate animals and immigration of new males into the pack.

In conclusion, it appears that males delay dispersal and cooperate within their natal packs because of the variety of reproductive strategies they could pursue within. A combination of ecological constraints and the difficulties of achieving breeding status within non-natal packs may make early dispersal and independent breeding less beneficial.