Did you know that the personality of wolves can modify ecosystems? New research, conducted by scientists at the University of Minnesota, has shown this.
The research was conducted as part of the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a project focused on understanding the summer ecology of wolves in Minnesota’s Grand Voyageurs ecosystem. The study has just been published in the journal Borders of ecology and environment.
Previous work under the project had shown that wolves can alter the creation of wetlands by killing weavers. Some wolves were much better at ambushing and killing beavers and in turn modified more wetlands than other wolves. According to the researchers, individual personalities may be responsible for this pattern.
Differences in wolf personalities lead to differences in predation
In a statement released by the University of Minnesota, Tom Gable, co-author of the paper, said most dog owners believe their dogs have personalities, and researchers suspect wolves also have personalities. personalities. This difference can be seen in differences in predation and hunting behavior, he explained.
Joseph Bump, the lead author of the paper, said a successful ambush personality requires wolves to wait in ponds or along beaver feeding trails. He explained that some individual wolves wait more often and much longer than other wolves, even from the same pack.
The researchers assessed the role of personality using data from eight wolf pairs across six packs from 2019 to 2020, to understand how wolf personalities might be linked to wetland creation. According to the study, the project team compared the number of times wolves from the same pack, who lived in the same or similar habitats and conditions, attempted to ambush beavers and the number of times wolves managed to kill beavers.
Thus, the researchers were able to control for many variables that could influence hunting behavior, such as the number of beavers in a wolf’s territory, genetics and environmental conditions.
Important Study Findings
According to the study, the project team found that there was significant variation in the amount of time pack members spent ambushing beavers and in the number of beavers killed by pack members.
Additionally, some wolves were found to kill 229% more beavers than other pack members and spent 263% more time ambushing beavers than other pack members.
According to the study, this wide variation in hunting behavior between wolves in the same pack is evidence of personality-related differences in predicting wolves.
Gable said wolves with stronger personalities for killing beavers appear to be disproportionately responsible, relative to the global population as a whole, for altering wetland creation and associated ecological effects.
Do other animals have personalities?
The researchers believe that it is unlikely that wolves are alone in this capacity. It is possible that other wildlife species also have personality differences that have different impacts on the ecosystem.
For example, some cougars appear to have beaver-killing personalities and some American badgers are particularly good at preying on prairie dogs, which are ecosystem engineers on the prairies, according to the release.
Whenever predators kill species that are ecosystem engineers, predator personalities are likely to have a greater impact on ecosystems, the authors say.
Bump questioned whether wolves that hunt beavers spawn wolf packs with more wolves that hunt beavers. He said that’s where the research gets more interesting.
Since wolf personalities can be seen in nature, it is possible that wolf cultures exist. This is because personalities are a necessary precursor for cultural formation in animals.