In this study, we describe patterns of relatedness in Gunnison’s prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) social groups. Kin selection is often cited as a mechanism for the evolution and maintenance of social groups, and Gunnison’s prairie dog females are occasionally described as being strongly philopatric. Overall, randomization tests revealed that females within territorial groups were not more closely related to each other than expected at random. A similar pattern was found among males and between males and females, indicating that there was no sex-biased dispersal occurring in these populations. Ecological variables measured in this study, such as food abundance and food dispersion, were not correlated with relatedness. In addition, territory size and density ⁄ m2 did not correlate significantly with relatedness. Although there was variability in the spatial overlap among individuals within groups, there was no indication that relatedness explained this variation. These results suggest that kin selection is not maintaining social groups in these populations, but that competition for access to resources required by both males and females may explain dispersal and social group patterns in these populations.
Verdolin, J. L., & Slobodchikoff, C. N. (2009). Resources, not kinship, determine social patterning in the territorial Gunnison’s prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni). Ethology, 115(1), 59-69.