Elevated aggression is associated with uncertainty in a network of dog dominance interactions.
ABSTRACT: Dominance hierarchies are widespread in animal societies and reduce the costs of within-group conflict over resources and reproduction. Variation in stability across a social hierarchy may result in asymmetries in the benefits obtained from hierarchy formation. However, variation in the stability and behavioural costs of dominance interactions with rank remain poorly understood. Previous theoretical models have predicted that the intensity of dominance interactions and aggression should increase with rank, but these models typically assume high reproductive skew, and so their generality remains untested. Here we show in a pack of free-living dogs with a sex-age-graded hierarchy that the central region of the hierarchy was dominated by more unstable social relationships and associated with elevated aggression. Our results reveal unavoidable costs of ascending a dominance hierarchy, run contrary to theoretical predictions for the relationship between aggression and social rank in high-skew societies, and widen our understanding of how heterogeneous benefits of hierarchy formation arise in animal societies.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Efficient division of reproductive labor is a crucial characteristic of social insects and underlies their ecological and evolutionary success. Despite of the harmonious appearance of insect societies, nestmates may have different interests concerning the partitioning of reproduction among group members. This may lead to conflict about reproductive rights. As yet, few studies have investigated the allocation of reproduction among queens in multi - queen societies ("reproductive skew"). In the ant Leptothorax acervorum, reproductive skew varies considerably among populations. While reproduction is quite equally shared among nestmate queens in most populations from boreal Eurasia (low skew), colonies from populations at the edge of the species' range are characterized by "functional monogyny," i.e., high skew. The proximate mechanisms underlying high skew, in particular how workers influence which queen lays eggs, are not well understood. We investigated the behavior of queens and workers in functionally monogynous colonies of L. acervorum from two mountain ranges in central Spain. RESULTS:We provide evidence for both queen and worker influence on the outcome of conflict over reproduction in colonies of L. acervorum from Spain. The patterns of queen - queen aggression and worker - queen grooming and feeding after hibernation allowed predicting, which queen later began to lay eggs. In contrast, worker aggression towards queens was not clearly associated with a queen's future reproductive success. Queen - queen and worker - queen aggression differed in quality: queens typically engaged in ritualized dominance behavior, such as antennal boxing, while workers also attacked queens by biting and prolonged pulling on their legs and antennae. In several cases, overt worker aggression led to the expulsion of queens from the nest or their death. CONCLUSION:We conclude that queens of L. acervorum from Spain establish rank orders by ritualized dominance interactions, such as antennal boxing. Workers may reinforce these hierarchies by preferentially feeding and grooming high ranking queens and attacking lower ranking queens. Aggressive worker policing may thus stabilize functional monogyny. Optimal skew models predict that high skew in ants is associated with high dispersal costs. In central Spain, L. acervorum is restricted to small patches at higher elevations, which presumably makes dispersal and colony founding difficult. Because of the ecological requirements of L. acervorum and the predicted large impact of global change on central Spain, the functionally monogynous populations of this ant must be considered as threatened.
Project description:Dominance hierarchies are group-level properties that emerge from the aggression of individuals. Although individuals can gain critical benefits from their position in a hierarchy, we do not understand how real-world hierarchies form. Nor do we understand what signals and decision-rules individuals use to construct and maintain hierarchies in the absence of simple cues such as size or spatial location. A study of conflict in two groups of captive monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) found that a transition to large-scale order in aggression occurred in newly-formed groups after one week, with individuals thereafter preferring to direct aggression more frequently against those nearby in rank. We consider two cognitive mechanisms underlying the emergence of this order: inference based on overall levels of aggression, or on subsets of the aggression network. Both mechanisms were predictive of individual decisions to aggress, but observed patterns were better explained by rank inference through subsets of the aggression network. Based on these results, we present a new theory, of a feedback loop between knowledge of rank and consequent behavior. This loop explains the transition to strategic aggression and the formation and persistence of dominance hierarchies in groups capable of both social memory and inference.
Project description:Unequal reproductive output among members of the same sex (reproductive skew) is a common phenomenon in a wide range of communally breeding animals. In such species, reproductive dominance is often acquired during antagonistic interactions between group members that establish a reproductive hierarchy in which only a few individuals reproduce. Rank-specific syndromes of behavioural and physiological traits characterize such hierarchies, but how antagonistic behavioural interactions translate into stable rank-specific syndromes remains poorly understood. The pleiotropic nature of hormones makes them prime candidates for generating such syndromes as they physiologically integrate environmental (social) information, and often affect reproduction and behaviour simultaneously. Juvenile hormone (JH) is one of several hormones that occupy such a central regulatory role in insects and has been suggested to regulate reproductive hierarchies in a wide range of social insects including ants. Here we use experimental manipulation to investigate the effect of JH levels on reproductive physiology and social dominance in high-ranked workers of the eusocial ant Dinoponera quadriceps, a species that has secondarily reverted to queenless, simple societies. We show that JH regulated reproductive physiology, with ants in which JH levels were experimentally elevated having more regressed ovaries. In contrast, we found no evidence of JH levels affecting dominance in social interactions. This could indicate that JH and ovary development are decoupled from dominance in this species, however only high-ranked workers were investigated. The results therefore confirm that the regulatory role of JH in reproductive physiology in this ant species is in keeping with its highly eusocial ancestors rather than its secondary reversion to simple societies, but more investigation is needed to disentangle the relationships between hormones, behaviour and hierarchies.
Project description:Studies of prosocial policing in nonhuman societies traditionally focus on impartial interventions because of an underlying assumption that partial support implies a direct benefit to the intervener, thereby negating the potential for being prosocial in maintaining social stability for the benefit of the group. However, certain types of partial interventions have significant potential to be prosocial in controlling conflict, e.g. support of non-kin subordinates. Here, we propose a policing support hypothesis that some types of agonistic support serve a prosocial policing function that maintains group stability. Using seven large captive groups of rhesus macaques, we investigated the relationship between intervention type and group-level costs and benefits (rates of trauma, severe aggression, social relocation) and individual level costs and benefits (preferential sex-dyad targeting, dominance ambiguity reduction, access to mates, and return aggression). Our results show that impartial interventions and support of subordinate non-kin represent prosocial policing as both (1) were negatively associated with group-level rates of trauma and severe aggression, respectively, (2) showed no potential to confer individual dominance benefits, (3) when performed outside the mating season, they did not increase chances of mating with the beneficiary, and (4) were low-cost for the highest-ranking interveners. We recommend expanding the definition of 'policing' in nonhumans to include these 'policing support interventions'.
Project description:Strong social relationships confer health and fitness benefits in a number of species, motivating the need to understand the processes through which they arise. In female cercopithecine primates, both kinship and dominance rank are thought to influence rates of affiliative behaviour and social partner preference. Teasing apart the relative importance of these factors has been challenging, however, as female kin often occupy similar positions in the dominance hierarchy. Here, we isolated the specific effects of rank on social relationships in female rhesus macaques by analysing grooming patterns in 18 social groups that did not contain close relatives, and in which dominance ranks were experimentally randomized. We found that grooming was asymmetrically directed towards higher-ranking females and that grooming bouts temporarily decreased the likelihood of aggression between grooming partners, supporting the idea that grooming is associated with social tolerance. Even in the absence of kin, females formed the strongest grooming relationships with females adjacent to them in rank, a pattern that was strongest for the highest-ranking females. Using simulations, we show that three rules for allocating grooming based on dominance rank recapitulated most of the relationships we observed. Finally, we evaluated whether a female's tendency to engage in grooming behaviour was stable across time and social setting. We found that one measure, the rate of grooming females provided to others (but not the rate of grooming females received), exhibited modest stability after accounting for the primary effect of dominance rank. Together, our findings indicate that dominance rank has strong effects on social relationships in the absence of kin, suggesting the importance of considering social status and social connectedness jointly when investigating their health and fitness consequences.
Project description:Only dominant individuals have unrestricted access to contested resources in group-living animals. In birds, subordinates with restricted access to resources may respond to intragroup contests by acquiring extra body reserves to avoid periods of food shortage. In turn, higher body mass reduces agility and increases predation and mortality risk to subordinates. Birds often live in hierarchically organized mixed-species groups, in which heterospecific individuals are considered to substitute for conspecifics as protection against predators at a significantly reduced competition cost. Crested tits (Lophophanes cristatus) and willow tits (Poecile montanus) form mixed-species groups during the non-reproductive season that typically exhibit a nearly linear dominance hierarchy ('despotic' social structure) in which the highest ranking male willow tit is fourth in the overall hierarchy after the dominant male, female and subordinate juvenile crested tit, respectively. Much less frequently, 'egalitarian' dominance structures occur in which the adult willow tits rank second and the hierarchy is less steep, or linear. We present a rare long-term data set in which egalitarian flocks are common enough to assess the consequences of this simple change in hierarchy structure as well as a potential driver of the pattern. A comparison of individuals in the despotic mixed-species groups revealed a strong negative correlation between subcutaneous fat stores and dominance rank in the interspecific dominance hierarchy, whereas in egalitarian groups, subordinate willow tits had significantly lower fat reserves and they foraged in safer parts of the canopy than willow tits in despotic groups. Moreover, egalitarian groups exhibited markedly less within-group aggression, higher group cohesion and improved winter survival in both tit species. However, winter survival of birds in egalitarian groups was impaired relative to despotic groups in forests recently affected by industrial forestry. This suggests that the more egalitarian bird societies may best be adapted to less-disturbed environments.
Project description:The two closest living relatives of humans, bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), share many traits that are common in humans but rare in other mammals, including societies with high fission-fusion dynamics, male philopatry, female dispersal and extensive social bonding among unrelated individuals . The major difference between these two species is that male aggression is more frequent and intense in male-dominated chimpanzees than in bonobos, where the highest-ranking individuals are female . One potential explanation is that because periods of female sexual receptivity and attractiveness are more extended in bonobos , males compete less intensely for each mating opportunity. This would reduce the strength of selection for traits that lead to success in direct contest competition between males and in sexual coercion of females, thus increasing the potential for female choice . Accordingly, it has been predicted that the influence of male dominance rank on reproductive success and the extent of male reproductive skew should be lower in bonobos than in chimpanzees . Although relevant for understanding the evolution of the unusual levels of egalitarianism and cooperation found in human hunter-gatherers , comparative analyses in the genus Pan have been limited by the scanty paternity data available for wild bonobos . Here, we show using the largest sample of paternity data available that, contrary to expectation, male bonobos have a higher reproductive skew and a stronger relationship between dominance rank and reproductive success than chimpanzees.
Project description:Intersexual dominance relations are important for female mammals, because of their consequences for accessing food and for the degree of sexual control females experience from males. Female mammals are usually considered to rank below males in the dominance hierarchy, because of their typical physical inferiority. Yet, in some groups or species, females are nonetheless dominant over some males (partial female dominance). Intersexual dominance, therefore, also depends on traits other than sexual dimorphism, such as social support, social exchange, group adult sex-ratio, and the widespread self-reinforcing effects of winning and losing fights, the "winner-loser effect." The importance of sex-ratio and the winner-loser effect remains poorly understood. A theoretical model, DomWorld, predicts that in groups with a higher proportion of males, females are dominant over more males when aggression is fierce (not mild). The model is based on a small number of general processes in mammals, such as grouping, aggression, the winner-loser effect, the initially greater fighting capacity of males than females, and sex ratio. We expect its predictions to be general and suggest they be examined in a great number of species and taxa. Here, we test these predictions in four groups of wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) in Mawana game reserve in Africa, using 7 years of data. We confirm that a higher proportion of males in the group is associated with greater dominance of females over males; a result that remains when combining these data with those of two other sites (Amboseli and Samara). We additionally confirm that in groups with a higher fraction of males there is a relatively higher (a) proportion of fights of males with other males, and (b) proportion of fights won by females against males from the fights of females with any adults. We reject alternative hypotheses that more dominance of females over males could be attributed to females receiving more coalitions from males, or females receiving lowered male aggression in exchange for sexual access (the docile male hypothesis). We conclude that female dominance relative to males is dynamic and that future empirical studies of inter-sexual dominance will benefit by considering the adult sex-ratio of groups.
Project description:Among studies of social species, it is common practice to rank individuals using dyadic social dominance relationships. The Elo-rating method for achieving this is powerful and increasingly popular, particularly among studies of nonhuman primates, but suffers from two deficiencies that hamper its usefulness: an initial burn-in period during which the model is unreliable and an assumption that all win-loss interactions are equivalent in their influence on rank trajectories. Here, I present R code that addresses these deficiencies by incorporating two modifications to a previously published function, testing this with data from a 9-mo observational study of social interactions among wild male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in Uganda. I found that, unmodified, the R function failed to resolve a hierarchy, with the burn-in period spanning much of the study. Using the modified function, I incorporated both prior knowledge of dominance ranks and varying intensities of aggression. This effectively eliminated the burn-in period, generating rank trajectories that were consistent with the direction of pant-grunt vocalizations (an unambiguous demonstration of subordinacy) and field observations, as well as showing a clear relationship between rank and mating success. This function is likely to be particularly useful in studies that are short relative to the frequency of aggressive interactions, for longer-term data sets disrupted by periods of lower quality or missing data, and for projects investigating the relative importance of differing behaviors in driving changes in social dominance. This study highlights the need for caution when using Elo-ratings to model social dominance in nonhuman primates and other species.
Project description:The immunocompetence handicap hypothesis posits that androgens in males can be a 'double-edged sword', actively promoting reproductive success, while also negatively impacting health. Because there can be both substantial androgen concentrations in females and significant androgenic variation among them, particularly in species portraying female social dominance over males or intense female-female competition, androgens might also play a role in mediating female health and fitness. We examined this hypothesis in the meerkat (Suricata suricatta), a cooperatively breeding, social carnivoran characterized by aggressively mediated female social dominance and extreme rank-related reproductive skew. Dominant females also have greater androgen concentrations and harbour greater parasite loads than their subordinate counterparts, but the relationship between concurrent androgen concentrations and parasite burdens is unknown. We found that a female's faecal androgen concentrations reliably predicted her concurrent state of endoparasitism irrespective of her social status: parasite species richness and infection by Spirurida nematodes, Oxynema suricattae, Pseudandrya suricattae and coccidia were greater with greater androgen concentrations. Based on gastrointestinal parasite burdens, females appear to experience the same trade-off in the costs and benefits of raised androgens as do the males of many species. This trade-off presumably represents a health cost of sexual selection operating in females.