Journal of Ethology

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 75–82 | Cite as

Grandmotherly care: a case study in Indian free-ranging dogs

  • Manabi Paul
  • Sreejani Sen Majumder
  • Anindita BhadraEmail author


Parental care is an essential component in the life history of mammals. In group-living species, care can be provided by adults other than the parents, and such care is termed alloparental care. Alloparental care is known in a wide spectrum of species, from insects to humans. Most canids that live in stable packs demonstrate cooperative breeding, where subordinates provide care to the offspring of the dominants, without reproducing themselves. Free-ranging dogs in India have a dynamic social system and, unlike their cooperatively breeding ancestors, the grey wolves, all adults in a dog group have equal mating opportunities. This at times leads to the birth of multiple litters within an existing dog group. In this paper, we report the first field observations of alloparental care made on a dog group where a bitch provided care to her grandpups, through interactions other than suckling. The allomaternal care acted as a supplement to the care provided by the mother, and was thus beneficial to the pups.


Alloparental care Social Dogs Pups Cooperative breeding 



This work was purely observation based, and was carried out on the IISER-K campus, without harming the dogs in any manner, or handling them, and did not violate the animal rights and ethics laws of India. M.P. and S.S.M. carried out the observations. A.B. planned and supervised the work. M.P. co-wrote the paper with A.B. The authors thank the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, India for funding and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research—Kolkata, India for providing infrastructural support. We thank the members of the MTS unit, IISER-Kolkata for allowing free access of their terrace to ML and her family. We thank Prof. Raghavendra Gadagkar of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and Jan Koler-Matznick, CPDT, USA for their inputs that helped to improve this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10164_2014_396_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 12 kb)
10164_2014_396_MOESM2_ESM.tif (55.4 mb)
ESM Figure 1: The LEL and MTS buildings with the denning sites of ML and PW marked with arrows on the two terraces. (TIFF 56691 kb)
10164_2014_396_MOESM3_ESM.tif (1.4 mb)
ESM Figure 2: Detailed map of the area under observation, showing the home range of the focal group (marked with yellow) and all the resources and landmarks within the area. Geographical coordinates were measured using a Garmin eTrex 30 GPS device. The positional data was compiled using ‘Garmin Basecamp’ and the territory was delineated on Google Earth. (TIFF 1389 kb)
10164_2014_396_MOESM4_ESM.tif (64.5 mb)
ESM Figure 3: The mating details of ML and PW in the two seasons. (TIFF 66005 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manabi Paul
    • 1
  • Sreejani Sen Majumder
    • 1
  • Anindita Bhadra
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Behaviour and Ecology Lab, Department of Biological SciencesIndian Institute of Science Education and ResearchKolkataIndia

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