Date of this Version
Biol Invasions (2022) 24:3199–3216 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-022-02840-4
A comprehensive understanding of sociality in wildlife is vital to optimizing conservation and management efforts. However, sociality is complicated, especially for widely distributed species that exhibit substantive behavioral plasticity. Invasive wild pigs (Sus scrofa), often representing hybrids of European wild boar and domestic pigs, are among the most adaptable and widely distributed large mammals. The social structure of wild pigs is believed to be similar to European wild boar, consisting of matriarchal groups (sounders) and solitary males. However, wild pig social structure is understudied and largely limited to visual observations. Using a hierarchical approach, we incorporated genomic tools to describe wild pig social group composition in two disparate ecoregions within their invaded range in North America. The most common social unit was sounders, which are characterized as the association of two or more breeding-aged wild pigs with or without dependent offspring. In addition to sounders, pseudo-solitary females and male-dominated bachelor groups were observed at a greater frequency than previously reported. Though primarily composed of close female kin, some sounders included unrelated females. Bachelor groups were predominantly composed of young, dispersal-aged males and almost always included only close kin. Collectively, our study suggests social organization of wild pigs in their invaded range is similar to that observed among wild boar but is complex, dynamic, and likely variable across invaded habitats.
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