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INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN ACTIVITY AND EXPLORATION INFLUENCE LEADERSHIP IN PAIRS OF FORAGING ZEBRA FINCHES

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This study investigated the role of dominance and level of activity and exploration on leadership in zebra finches (Taenopygia guttata) searching for food. In pairs of zebra finches fairly matched in size and that experienced the same level of food deprivation, the same bird consistently reached first one foraging patch over several trials. The same pattern of arrival to food occurred when resources were provided in two distant patches available concurrently, a situation that would potentially allow subordinates a greater access to resources. In further testing, the formation of new pairs with the same birds led to several changes in leadership, indicating that leadership is not an absolute feature. The member of a pair that proved to be the most active and exploratory during independent, solitary trials became the leader in nearly all pairs tested. The same pattern held true in newly rearranged pairs where individuals often experienced changes in dominance status. Dominance failed to be associated with leadership in all tests. The results suggest that in a relatively egalitarian species, level of activity and exploration may be a stronger predictor of leadership than dominance.

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