Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the '50:50' Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles.


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.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0154150

Cite this paper

@article{Essler2016PlayBI, title={Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the '50:50' Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles.}, author={Jennifer L Essler and Simona Cafazzo and Sarah Marshall-Pescini and Zsofia Viranyi and Kurt K. Kotrschal and Friederike Range}, journal={PloS one}, year={2016}, volume={11 5}, pages={e0154150} }