Parent–offspring conflict (POC) theory provides an interesting premise for understanding social dynamics in facultatively social species. In free-ranging dogs, mothers increase conflict over extended parental care with their pups beyond the weaning stage. In this study, we investigated whether resource quality affects POC in the dogs that typically live in a highly competitive environment as scavengers. We built a theoretical model to predict the alternative options available to the mother in the context of food sharing with her pups when protein-rich food (meat) is provided, as compared to carbohydrate-rich food (biscuits). We fit the mothers’ response from experimental data to the model and show that the mothers choose a selfish strategy, which can in turn ensure higher lifetime reproductive success, while depriving the current litter access to better resources. These results have interesting implications for understanding the social dynamics of the dogs, and the emergence of facultative sociality in a species that evolved from strongly social ancestors. We speculate that the tendency of increased conflict in resource-rich conditions might have driven the process of domestication in the ancestors of dogs which defected from their groups in favour of richer resources around human settlements.
behaviour, theoretical biology, evolution
Natural Sciences in General