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by Dan Evon
CLAIM: A photograph shows a wolf pack being led by the oldest and weakest members.
EXAMPLE: [Collected via Facebook, December 2015]
This photo is going around Facebook. Is it accurate?
"A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack. If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed. Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear. In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other."
ORIGIN: In December 2015, a photograph of a wolf pack marching through the snow began circulating via Facebook along with an inaccurate description about its hierarchy. While we don't know exactly who penned the dubious description attached to the picture, the earliest iteration we've found so far came from an Italian-language Facebook post dated 17 December 2015. This post was translated into English on 20 December 2015 and quickly went viral.
Despite the image's popularity, however, the attached description of the inner workings of a wolf pack are inaccurate. The photograph shown was taken by Chadden Hunter and featured in the BBC documentary Frozen Planet in 2011, with its original description explaining that the "alpha female" led the pack and that the rest of the wolves followed in her tracks in order to save energy:
While this description is more accurate than the one shared in the viral Facebook post, some researchers would nonetheless dispute the use of the term "alpha." In David Mech's 1999 paper "Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs," he argued that the concept of an "alpha" wolf who asserts his or her dominance over other pack members doesn't actually exist in the wild:
This photograph is "real" in the sense that it shows a pack of wolves in Wood Buffalo National Park, but the pack is not being led by the three oldest members and trailed by an "alpha" wolf, as implied by a viral Facebook post. Instead, one of the stronger animals leads the group in order to create a path through the snow for them.
SOURCES: Mech, L. David & nbsp; "Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs."
Canadian Journal of Zoology. 77:1196-1203 (1999).
Dan Evon is a Chicago-based writer and longtime truth enthusiast. His work has appeared somewhere, and he earned a degree at the University of His Choosing. His exploration of Internet truth has been supported by grants from the Facebook Drug Task Force.
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