The contributions of adult (>18 months) and yearling (10–18 months) African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), to raising pups were quantified at eight natal dens, where pups remain for their first three months of life.
Adults between 2–6 years of age did most of the hunting, and the dominant male often made the first grab at fleeing prey. Yearlings contributed to the hunting but were reluctant to tackle large prey animals. Yearlings and breeding females had prior access to food. Yearlings and adults regurgitated comparable amounts of food, but in one pack watched at a time of food shortage, the yearlings failed to regurgitate and stole food from the pups.
Dominant dogs chased predators, especially spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) from the area of the den more frequently than other adults or yearlings chased predators. Mothers, particularly in the first six weeks post-partum, stayed and protected the pups when the pack hunted.
There is a positive, but non-significant correlation between the number of adult helpers and the number of pups raised. However, the sex ratio bias towards males at birth suggests that male helpers (which predominate) usually increase pup survivorship. The roles of direct and indirect selection in the evolution of the helping behavior are discussed. Indirect selection has probably played an important role in the unusual post-reproductive survival of males and their helping behavior.