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In what kind of play are the whelps engaging in while their mothers leave them unattended in the communal nesting area?

Topic: domestic animal behavior

Background: Wild dragons are seasonal breeders. Adults are relatively solitary, with the exception of mating and, for females, during egg-layingand whelp (dragon hatchling) care. When female dragons become broody, they gather in communal groups of up to 25 females to excavate their

A female dragon will typically lay a clutch of 1-3 eggs, which she deposits in the center of her nest pit. During incubation, the female dragon willnot leave her nest as she needs to ensure that the pit remains at the ideal incubation temperature.
While they are hatching, the female will sniff each hatching egg and newly hatched whelp once it emerges; she will then consume the emptyeggshell. After all the whelps have hatched, the female dragon will begin leaving the whelps and communal nesting area to hunt in order toprovision her whelps.

Dragons are arial predators. When hunting, a dragon will fly into the air and then swoop close to the ground to breathe fire onto its prey to kill it.After she has made a kill, the female dragon will return to the communal nesting area and call to her whelps to feed them. While their mothers
are out hunting, unattended whelps will remain at the communal nesting area, often engaging in play behavior with other whelps. Whenplaying, whelps will try to breathe fire at each other and as they learn how to fly, they will even begin swooping down onto the backs of oneanother. There does not appear to be any particular pattern as to which whelp plays the “target” of fire breathing or swooping in any given playbout.
ANS 104 Principles and Applications of Domestic Animal Behavior
Female dragons provision their whelps at the communal nesting area for approximately 2 months. During this time, the whelps grow at a rapidpace. When the whelps are 2 months old, they are big enough to accompany their mother during her hunting forays. The whelps will remainwith their mother for another month, accompanying her on her hunting forays to learn how to hunt and by 3 mo of age, can forage on theirown.
Essay #2 prompt:
1. Given that female dragons show communal nesting behavior, what would have shaped this behavioral response, from an evolutionaryperspective?
2. When living communally, why is important for female dragons to sniff the egg and new hatchling?
3. In what kind of play are the whelps engaging in while their mothers leave them unattended in the communal nesting area? Whatpurpose does this play serve?
4. Regardless of the nesting social strategy, explain when and why you would expect dragon mothers to separate from their offspring.


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