African wild dogs are
highly social carnivores that live in packs. The difference in the
degree of sociality in wild dogs and wolves appears to be reflected
in resting patterns. The extremely social nature of wild dogs is
reflected in the maintenance of physical contact or relatively short
inter-individual distances while resting. Unlike wolves, they typically
disperse in groups. Lone dogs and peripheral pack members are rare.
Compared to wolves, aggression is generally muted. Cooperation is
the key to survival and reproduction.
Pack formation in wild dogs is a social process that
usually involves more than two individuals. Although the formation
of new packs affects both individual fitness and population dynamics,
and therefore is highly relevant to the conservation of this endangered
species, little is known about the process of formation itself in
the wild and the proximate mechanisms that influence outcomes.
Typically same-sex relatives emigrate and join opposite-sex
groups. Our observations in the field suggest that group compatibility
can influence whether stable reproductive units form. When opposite-sex
groups join, they undergo what has been termed a "trial courtship"
that may or may not result in the formation of a stable reproductive
unit. If a new pack does not stay together, it annuls. Any given
instance of pack annulment may be due to one or more causal factors
that vary both temporally and regionally. An analysis of resting
patterns suggests that spatial relationships mirror the relative
strength of social bonds and thus the degree of social integration
between females and males.