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

Essler, J. L., Cafazzo, S., Marshall-Pescini, S., Virányi, Z., Kotrschal, K., & Range, F. (2016). Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the ‘50: 50’Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles. PLOS ONE, 11(5), e0154150.

Project /
Authors J. L. Essler, S. Cafazzo, S. Marshall-Pescini, Z. Virányi, K. Kotrschal & F. Range
Year of publication 2016
Journal Plos One

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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.