Street coyotes more faithful than people, study suggests
Sept. 25, 2012
Coyotes living in urban areas never stray from their mates—they stay together till death do them part, according to a new study.
Scientists say the finding sheds light on why the North American cousin of the dog and wolf, which is originally native to deserts and plains, is thriving today in metropolises.
Researchers with Ohio State University who genetically sampled 236 coyotes in the Chicago area over a six-year period found no evidence of polygamy—of the animals having more than one mate—nor of one mate ever leaving another while the other was still alive.
That was true, the scientists said, even though the coyotes live in densely packed populations with plentiful of food, conditions that often lead some other members of the dog family to stray from their normal monogamy.
“I was surprised we didn’t find any cheating,” said study co-author Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecologist at Ohio State. “Even with all the opportunities for the coyotes to philander, they really don’t.
“In contrast to studies of other presumably monogamous species that were later found to be cheating, such as arctic foxes and mountain bluebirds, we found incredible loyalty to partners in the study population,” he added.
The research appears in a recent issue of The Journal of Mammalogy.
Coyotes’ loyalty may be a key to their success in urban areas, Gehrt said. Not only is a female coyote naturally capable of producing large litters of young during times of plenty, such as when living in food-rich cities, she has a faithful partner to help raise them all. “If the female were to try to raise those large litters by herself, she wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Gehrt. “But the male spends just as much time helping to raise those pups as the female does.”
Smaller treefrogs are more likely to “cheat” their way to a mate, French scientists have found. The team studied the response of differently sized European treefrogs to a chorus of mating calls: here.