Behaviour 2019
Scavenging Strategies in Free-ranging dogs
Rohan Sarkar, Shubhra Sau, Rituparna Sonowal, Anindita Bhadra. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Free-ranging dogs (FRD) in India mostly subsist on a carbohydrate-rich diet. They either forage in groups or solitarily. We carried out a multiple-choice test experiment (MCTE) on 68 individual FRD & 73 groups on urban streets, simulating scavenging from dustbins to figure out their preferences and strategies. We found solo FRD scavenge using a Rule of Thumb (ROT), implemented through a Sniff-&-Snatch strategy for maximizing meat uptake first from the noisy background of garbage, but did not discard the carbohydrate either. This is a highly efficient scavenging strategy that can help them to maximize food intake, while allowing them to eat the most preferred food first, and has perhaps been instrumental for their survival in a highly competitive & heterogenous human-dominated environment. In groups intra-group competition comes into play during feeding wherein preference (& application of ROT) becomes a matter of privilege, dictated by the order of responders & enforced by the top order responders through aggression & other subtle cues. This work provides the first hint of evidence of hierarchy in FRD & these dogs having developed an evolutionarily stable strategy of feeding.