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Effects of social experience during development on competitive ability and personality traits in male domestic fowl
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6435-011X
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8621-6977
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The ability to dominate conspecifics and thereby gain access to important resources depends on a number of traits and skills that may be both heritable and influenced by the environment. Experience of dominance relationships during development is a potential source of learning such skills. We here study the relative importance of social experience, personality, and morphological traits on competitive ability in male domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus). By letting males grow up as either a single (dominant) male, as the dominant male of a pair, or as an intermediate ranked male in a group of males, we investigate if competitiveness in social interactions (winning duels) is mainly due to individual qualities or also influenced by social experience. We found that males were consistent over time in their competitive ability. Single raised males were inferior to pair dominant males and group-raised males in competitive ability, while pair dominant and group males did not differ significantly. This indicates that social training is important for future fighting success, but that the social position during development does not have a decisive influence on male fighting success in adulthood. Aggression and comb size, the latter possibly being a proxy for testosterone levels, had a marked effect on competitive ability. Together, our results indicate that certain behavioural and morphological traits are more important than experience of a social position in shaping competitive ability. These findings elucidate the relationship between social dominance and personality.

Keyword [en]
aggression, ontogeny, personality, social dominance, social rank, social status, social niche
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142346OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-142346DiVA: diva2:1092241
Funder
Linköpings universitet, Future research leaders
Available from: 2017-05-02 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2017-05-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The relationship between personality and social dominance in the domestic fowl – a critical perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The relationship between personality and social dominance in the domestic fowl – a critical perspective
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Social dominance relationships are formed within numerous animal species and reduce costly fights over resources. Dominant individuals often enjoy greater access to important resources such as food and mating partners, and are generally more aggressive, bold, active and explorative compared to subdominant individuals. These behavioural traits can differ among individuals, but they can also be consistent within the individual, thereby describing the individual’s personality type. However, the causal direction of the observed correlation between dominance and personality is not well studied. One possibility is that some personality types have higher chances of obtaining a dominant social position. This would suggest that personality has consequences for fitness. Another possible explanation is that possessing different social positions gives rise to consistent behavioural differences among individuals on various timescales. If social status has a lasting effect on behaviour, social status would constitute a ‘stable state’ that explains some of the diversity of personality types that has been observed in a multitude of animal species. Dominance and personality may also share underlying proximate factors. In this thesis, I investigate the relationship between social dominance and personality using male domestic fowl, Gallus gallus domesticus. The species is group-living with pronounced dominance hierarchies, and dominance increases male access to mating partners. I show that some aspects of personality, exploration, vigilance and in particular aggressiveness, increased a male’s chances of obtaining dominance (paper III, IV, V), and that aggressiveness can be even more important than body weight and ornament size (comb size, paper V) or recent experience of winning or losing (paper IV). Winning a social interaction resulted in an increase in aggressiveness, while a decrease was seen in males that experienced a loss (paper IV). By observing behaviour before and after changes in male dominance relationships, I further show that a recent (2 days earlier) change in social status induced behavioural adjustments to the new social status in activity, exploration and vigilance (paper I). By extending the time of the new social relationship to 3 weeks, I show that such behavioural changes did not continue (paper II). Finally, I show that the social environment during juvenile development had little impact on adult male competitiveness (paper V). Social interactions appear to have several short-term effects on behaviour, but did not contribute significantly to variation and long-term consistency of personality in male fowl. Instead, a male's personality, and in particular his aggressiveness, affected the outcome of dominance interactions. Overall, my studies reveal important consequences of individual differences in behaviour, and contribute to the highly sought-after empirical testing of hypotheses explaining variation in animal personality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2017. 63 p.
Keyword
aggression, behavioural syndromes, chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus, intra-sexual selection, resource holding potential, social hierarchy, social rank
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142348 (URN)978-91-7649-838-5 (ISBN)978-91-7649-839-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-06-16, sal E306, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Svante Arrhenius väg 20 C, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-05-22 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2017-05-18Bibliographically approved

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