African wild dogs deal with humans using skills they rely on to compete with other carnivores

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Wild dogs are usually with their packmates. Credits: Scott Creel, CC BY-ND

Large African carnivores are important from an ecological, economic and cultural point of view, but human activity puts them at risk. Increasingly, lions, hyenas and African wild dogs are restricted to protected areas such as national parks. Within these limited areas, they must compete for the same food source.

Of course, competition is not new.Africa’s wild for millions of years dog Evolved within the set of Big carnivore All prey on the same large herbivore species such as Nu and Warthog. Wild dogs are lean long-distance hunters who usually live in groups of 8-10 adults all the time. Working with packmates, they can hunt much larger prey than they do. Wild dogs weighing about 40-62 pounds (18-28 kilograms) Lion Spotted hyena.

There may be a silver backing to be the lowest dog in the competition hierarchy.My research A colleague of the Zambian Carnivore Program And me Studies conducted in Zambia and Tanzania suggest why small, subordinate species, such as wild dogs, can better move through human-altered landscapes. Understand how essential to their conservation.

Encounter with African wild dog

In the late 1980s, I was studying dwarf mongoose in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Sitting on the roof of an ancient Land Rover and looking at a mongoose in a nearby termite mound, a wild dog passed by. And another, and another. Wild dogs have been missing for years from most (probably all) of Serengeti due to a combination of fierce competition with large carnivorous animals and outbreaks of mad dog disease. But I’m back here.

The following year, I occasionally chased dogs and saw them hunting on the plains of the short glasses they were in. Always cast a shadow on spotted hyenas.. Some hyenas often chase dogs even when they go hunting, and when the dog kills a gazelle or wildebeest, the hyenas gather immediately. Often warned by the unmistakable sound of vultures plunging into the air towards fresh carcasses.

They are half the size, but wild dogs don’t give up killing hyenas easily. A herd of wild dogs that coordinately attack one or two hyenas can be easily dispelled.But hyenas too Social animalsAnd researchers Dogs generally lost their killings to hyenas When their numbers are equal. Given the large population of Hyenas in Serengeti, they killed nine of the ten killings made by dogs. And lions are simply too dangerous to fight, so big cats can always take over the killings from dogs and kill them surprisingly often.


Each dot represents an individual wild dog and their color similarity represents genetic similarity. Credits: Scott Creel, CC BY-ND

At that time, little was known about wild dogs outside of Serengeti and Kruger National Park in South Africa. Impalas that often hunt.. Biologists have begun to rethink the general view that wild dogs specialize in living and hunting in open grasslands.

My colleagues and I observed wild dogs in the Selous Beast Sanctuary for six years in the 1990s, confirming the Tanzanian Wildlife Service’s belief that this large ecosystem is a major hub of this species. The density of Selous wild dogs has been found to be very good, at least in part. Wild dogs were able to better avoid the problem There are lions and spotted hyenas in the Miombo forest of Serus rather than the plains of Serengeti. There was more evidence that wild African dogs found benefits in other types of environments, as well as being able to survive outside the grasslands like Serengeti.

By the mid-1990s, there was a scientific consensus that the survival of wild dogs in certain areas depended at least in part on their ability to avoid losing food to hyenas and being killed by lions. ..

Being the bottom dog can be rewarded

Many studies, including current studies in Zambia, Wild dogs are adapted to “live in the cracks” This is a large-sized landscape photograph with more spotted hyenas and lions.

In the short term, wild dogs move quickly in straight lines, which is unusual in other situations, from encounters with lions or experimental replays of roars on loud speakers. In the long run, wild dogs avoid areas frequently used by large competitors. Hunt in areas with low prey..

However, being at the bottom of a competitive hierarchy may have advantages. Compared to most species, all large African carnivores live in small, isolated populations. You need to stay connected To maintain genetic diversity.But humans have now fixed More than half of the earth’s earth, Cut the line of movement and strengthen the isolation of protected areas. Despite this common pattern, some species are better adapted than others to maintain connections between ecosystems.


Each dot represents an individual lion, and their color similarity represents genetic similarity. Credits: Scott Creel, CC BY-ND

In our study, we used advances in gene sequences to test how well wild dogs and lions connect in several ecosystems in Zambia and Tanzania. The basic idea is that well-connected populations remain genetically similar, while poorly connected populations become genetically distinct from each other over time.

I wondered if there was an adaptation that would allow wild dogs to move through landscapes dominated by lions and hyenas. It also helps to move through landscapes modified by humans.. For example, wild dogs can move faster and more straight after encountering people, just as they do after encountering lions.We assumed that Genetic data Wild dogs have stronger connections between ecosystems than lions, indicating that they are less susceptible to human influence.

And this is Only what the data shows When comparing the genotypes of 96 wild dogs and 208 lions separately.

Wild dogs in eastern, central and western Zambia are genetically very similar, indicating that these populations remain well connected. In contrast, lions were not very similar genetically and well-defined populations were not well connected.

We also mapped the extent to which human influences such as land conversion, agriculture, and roads impede animal movements, and distinguished areas with relatively low resistance to animal movements from areas with strong human influences. Genetic differences between lion populations were strongly correlated with human resistance, but not with wild dogs.That is, there was a more genetically isolated lion population in places that were less friendly to animal movements, but had no effect. Genetic diversity of Wild dog In the area.

It’s still premature to know if this pattern applies to other species, but with the lion hyena We provided wild dogs with tools to help them navigate the relentless landscapes created by humans outside national parks.

Solve the mystery of the disappearing wild dog of Serengeti

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African wild dogs deal with humans using skills they rely on to compete with other carnivores

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