Social play in wild brown bears of varying age-sex class

Clapham, Melanie and Kitchin, John (2016) Social play in wild brown bears of varying age-sex class. Acta Ethologica, 19 (3). pp. 181-188.

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Social play behaviour is a well-described phenomenon, almost ubiquitous among mammals. Despite its prevalence, social play takes several forms and may vary in function across species. For solitary species, the function of play outside of the family group remains unclear. Here, we describe the motor patterns of play among non-littermate wild brown bears Ursus arctos of different age-sex class. Play was documented during a time of abundant food availability in three different scenarios: play among non-littermate subadults, play among non-littermate cubs, and play among a ‘group’ of bears of different age and sex class. We used a previously described behavioural ethogram to recognise play. Play followed typical motor patterns and postures expressed by bears during play-fighting: relaxed face, puckered-lip, ears partially flattened to crescent, wrestling, jaw gaping, play-biting, paw-swatting, and lunging. No vocalisations were conducted during play bouts. Older bears displayed ‘self-handicapping’ and ‘role-reversal’ in the play postures they selected when playing with younger bears, suggesting that tactics vary according to age class and dominance ranking. Playing likely allows for the evaluation of conspecifics in a non-aggressive way during times of reduced competition and could also relieve stress in complex social situations.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Acta Ethologica
Publisher: Springer Verlag (Germany)
ISSN: 1437-9546
Departments: Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA)
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2017 14:58
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 16:16


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