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On the Ontogeny of Orienting Movements in the Triumph Ceremony in Two Species of Geese (Anser Anser L. and Branta Canadensis L.)

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Certain aspects of the ontogenetic development of appeasing movements in the Cackling ceremony of Canada and greylag geese were studied. 1. The appeasing movements occurring in this ceremony in adult geese are lacking in inexperienced goslings of both species. Instead, the siblings often orientate frontally with the bills aimed at each other. Such ceremonies often turned into biting and pecking and may, during the first 10 days of life, continue into actual fighting. 2. During these fights an appeasing movement, Facing away, develops. There is established a firm, linear, rank order which is later on expressed in the Cackling ceremonies also. After the first week of life the fights rapidly decrease in number in both species. The motor pattern Facing away is now also expressed by the subordinate individuals in the Cackling ceremonies of both species. The presence of this motor pattern seems to be the direct cause of the decrease in the number of fights. 3. In the Canada goose Facing away occurs during all ontogenetical stages and is also demonstrated by the female in the Triumph ceremony of adults. In the greylag goslings, however, from about 20 days the rank order in the groups is dissolved. This is due to the incorporation of a new orienting response in the ceremony which means that the birds do not meet frontally during Cackling but instead orientate laterally. This new movement appears in both low- and high-ranking individuals and replaces Facing away. 4. To investigate the significance of early aggression and the rank order during the development of these particular motor patterns, a number of goslings were reared in special cages which allowed visual and auditory contact but deprived the siblings of bodily contact and possibilities of fighting. The results indicate that the performance of Facing away in Canada geese and small greylag goslings clearly depends on the rank order established during early fights. The new orienting response of the greylag goose, however, seems to develop without prior experience of a rank order and fighting. 5. It is presumed that the appeasing postures during the ceremony in the Canada goose represent a more primitive stage than do the corresponding movements of the greylag goose. During the ontogenesis these movements in the greylag goose, although possibly derived from appeasing movements of the type occurring in Canada geese, reveal a more pronounced degree of ritualization and emancipation.

Affiliations: 1: Division of Ethology, Department of Zoology, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden


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