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Relationships Between Sex and Stress Hormone Levels in Feces and Marking Behavior in a Wild Population of Iberian Wolves (Canis lupus signatus)

Barja, Isabel, Silván, Gema, Illera, Juan Carlos
Journal of chemical ecology 2008 v.34 no.6 pp. 697-701
Canis lupus, cortisol, estradiol, feces, habitats, marking behavior, progesterone, social dominance, testosterone, wolves, Spain
Feces deposited by the breeding alpha pair on exposed substrates and/or zones may act as visual and olfactory marks associated with social dominance in wolves. The aim of this study was to determine if there was a correlation between marking behavior, sex hormone levels, and physiological stress in a wild population of Iberian wolves in Northwest Spain. The glucocorticoid and sex hormone levels were measured in feces collected as a function of exposure (conspicuous/inconspicuous), height (above ground level/at ground level), and strategic location in the habitat (at crossroads/off crossroads), as well as the frequency of re-marking. The feces, believed to serve as marking cues, had higher glucocorticoid levels (cortisol) and sex hormones (testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol). The results suggest that in Iberian wolves, the alpha pair is subject to higher social stress than subordinate individuals, and that the reproductive suppression of subordinates is not mediated by chronic glucocorticoid elevation.