Artwork By Xilona Blanco

Biology, Physiology, and Pathology

Burtt AA, DeSantis LR. Exploring durophagy among modern gray wolves from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with dental microwear texture analysis. Journal of Zoology. 2022 May


Gray wolf (Canis lupus) dietary behavior can be highly variable; prey species for wolves span a range of ungulates to the consumption of smaller animals. While prey species for wolves are well documented, carcass utilization within and between wolf populations is less understood. This paper examines a modern population of wolves from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) with dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) to gauge utilization of bone resources, or durophagy, across biological, physical, social, geographical, and temporal variables. Results indicate gradation in durophagous behavior among GYE wolves does not correlate with sex, intra-population body size (as inferred from skeletal and soft tissue measurements), pack association, or age class. Together, findings suggest that feeding ecologies for wolves are not specific to these factors. We also found that antemortem tooth breakage rates are not positively correlated with dental microwear textures that infer durophagy. We further compare dental microwear measures with previously published data from Alaskan wolves, who were collected decades before the GYE wolf sample. Results imply elevated carcass exploitation in the contemporary GYE wolf population sample. If minimal inter-population differences are assumed, data presented here show dietary behaviors of North American gray wolves have changed over the past fifty years, indicating a possible long-term trend that may be linked to decreased winter severity and climate change.