Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the ‘50:50’ Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles

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  6. Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the ‘50:50’ Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles
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  3. Scientific Studies
  4. Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the ‘50:50’ Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles

Jennifer L. Essler1,2*, Simona Cafazzo1
, Sarah Marshall-Pescini1,2, Zsófia Virányi1,2,
Kurt Kotrschal1,3, Friederike Range1,2
1 Wolf Science Center, Ernstbrunn, Austria, 2 Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute,
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University of Vienna and University of Vienna, Vienna,
Austria, 3 Department of Behavioral Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria


Abstract
Social play is known as a cooperative interaction between individuals involving multiple
mechanisms. However, the extent to which the equality of individuals’ play styles affects the
interaction has not been studied in many species. Dyadic play between wolf puppies, as
well as between puppies and adults, was studied to investigate both self-handicapping and
offensive behaviors to determine the extent to which wolves engage in play styles where
one individual does not dominate the play. Our results did not support the hypothesized
‘50:50’ rule, which suggests that more advantaged individuals should show higher rates of
self-handicapping behaviors in order to facilitate play with others. Adult wolves performed
significantly less self-handicapping behaviors than their puppy partners, and they performed significantly more offensive behaviors than their puppy partners. While the ‘50:50’
rule was not supported at any time during our study period, dyads consisting of two puppies
had significantly more equal play than dyads consisting of one puppy and one adult. These
results suggest that wolf puppies are more likely to play on equal terms with similarly-aged
play partners, while the dominance status of the partners dictates offensive and self-handicapping behaviors between animals of different ages.

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