Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 7, 11033

Additive Opportunistic Capture Explains Group Hunting Benefits in African Wild Dogs


Additive Opportunistic Capture Explains Group Hunting Benefits in African Wild Dogs

Tatjana Y Hubel et al. Nat Commun.


African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are described as highly collaborative endurance pursuit hunters based on observations derived primarily from the grass plains of East Africa. However, the remaining population of this endangered species mainly occupies mixed woodland savannah where hunting strategies appear to differ from those previously described. We used high-resolution GPS and inertial technology to record fine-scale movement of all members of a single pack of six adult African wild dogs in northern Botswana. The dogs used multiple short-distance hunting attempts with a low individual kill rate (15.5%), but high group feeding rate due to the sharing of prey. Use of high-level cooperative chase strategies (coordination and collaboration) was not recorded. In the mixed woodland habitats typical of their current range, simultaneous, opportunistic, short-distance chasing by dogs pursuing multiple prey (rather than long collaborative pursuits of single prey by multiple individuals) could be the key to their relative success in these habitats.


Figure 1
Figure 1. GPS collar and traces.
(a) African wild dog with collar. (b) Example GPS trace for unsuccessful MDC involving five individuals, origin at MDC start position, run start (circle) and run end (cross). (c) Speed profile for each dog in b.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Relationship between kill rate and number of dogs running simultaneously.
(a) Kill rate for individual chases and (b) group kill rate (DCs). (a) Number of chases identified as ending in kill divided by total number of chases within each group size (chases evaluated automatically as independent event, kill assumed if displacement of the dog conducting the chase is <50 m 5 min after the end of the run; total number of chases analysed, n=1,097). (b) Number of kills in DC (could be more than one in a DC) divided by total number of DCs within each group size (kills identified manually by four reviewers (at least three had to agree); total SDCs, n=286; total MDCs, n=278). Regression line (dashed blue line), weighted regression line based on number of observations in category (solid blue line) and curve fitting confidence interval to weighted regression line (dashed red line). Number of chases analysed in each group size displayed above histogram. Note: results in group size of 1 in a and b are theoretically identical (difference due to manual and automatic classification), and there were no successful chases for a group size of 6.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Chase parameters versus the number of dogs running simultaneously (group size) displayed as violin plots (combining box plot and kernel density plot).
Number of chases analysed, n=1,119. Violin plots show the density distribution of the values, with each histogram normalized to the same maximum bin width compared with the distribution shape. The total number of values contributing to each histogram is given above each plot, mean (black cross); median (white box). (a) Maximum (Max) stride speed, (b) mean absolute heading rate (degree per stride), (c) maximum tangential (fore-aft) acceleration and (d) deceleration, maximum centripetal (turning) acceleration (e) turning right and (f) turning left, (g) chase duration and (h) chase distance.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Total duration and simultaneous run duration of MDCs.
(a) Total MDC duration versus number of dogs involved (time from when first dog starts running until last dog stops running). (b) Percentage of time during which all dogs participating in MDCs are running simultaneously. Number of runs in each group size displayed above each kernel histogram: total number of MDCs, n=278; total number of runs in all MDCs, n=382.
Figure 5
Figure 5. Run participation and initiation.
(ac) Number of runs/chases each dog (colour key in a) executed in each group size (a) for runs (>3 ms−1, n=1,551), (b) chases (>6 ms−1, n=1,119) and (c) successful chases (resulting in kill, n=127). (df) Fraction of time individual dogs started to run first in MDC for (d) runs, (e) chases and (f) successful chases. All data (af) normalized by number of days the individual dogs were available for hunting. DF, dominant female; DM, dominant male; SF, subdominant female; SM, subdominant male.
Figure 6
Figure 6. Group formation pattern before onset of chase.
Spatial relationship between individual dogs in the 10-min leading up to the beginning of a DC (SDC or MDC) as a function of (a) time and (b) speed. The three-dimensional location histograms show the position of the other group members, with respect to the individual leading the pack. The colour scale is the count of how often any given dog was present at a certain location. Analysis based on DCs occurring during the 2 h of 10-s GPS data sample rate during the daily main hunting period (DCs; n=100). In a position of the individuals was averaged over 2-min periods for the 10-min leading up to the DC and displayed for three out of five instances. In b 10-min data were binned by speed: slow speed, 0–1.5 ms−1; medium speed, 1.5–3 ms−1; and fast speed, >3 ms−1.
Figure 7
Figure 7. Leadership based on spatial position between chases.
Ratio of time individual dogs are in the lead to total time leading up to DC, normalized by number of days each individual was available for hunting. Lead defined based on pack centroid position and heading. Abscissa shows time left leading up to the beginning of the DC. Analysis based on DCs occurring during the 2 h of 10-s GPS data sample rate during the daily main hunting period (DCs; n=100). DF, dominant female; DM, dominant male; SF, subdominant female; SM, subdominant male.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 8 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Uhlenbroek C. Animal Life Dorling Kindersley (2008).
    1. Taylor C. R., Schmidt-Nielsen K., Dmi'el R. & Fedak M. Effect of hyperthermia on heat balance during running in the African hunting dog. Am. J. Physiol. 220, 823–827 (1971). - PubMed
    1. Estes R. D. & Goddard J. Prey selection and hunting behavior of the African wild dog. J. Wildl. Manage. 31, 52–70 (1967).
    1. Delaney J. J. & Happold D. C. D. Ecology of African Mammals Longman (1979).
    1. Schaller G. B. The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations Univ. of Chicago Press (1972).

Publication types