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Benefits, Costs, and Determinants of Dominance in American Black Ducks

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Behavioural dominance was studied in captive American black ducks (Anas rubripes) during October-December 1984. Eighty ducks were marked individually, and groups of 10 ducks consisting of 5 adults (3 males and 2 females) and 5 juveniles (3 males and 2 females) were assigned to each of 8 experimental pens. Ducks in 4 pens received an ad libitum diet, and ducks in the other 4 pens were given a restricted diet. Dominance structure within pens was linear. Adults were dominant to young, and body mass had no influence on dominance rank. The effect of sex on dominance rank was age-specific. Adult males were dominant to adult females and to young black ducks of both sexes; however, dominance rank of young males did not differ from adult or young females. Paired adults were dominant to unpaired adults and to young individuals that were either paired or unpaired. Paired young black ducks were similar in dominance rank to unpaired adults and unpaired young indicating that pairing did not make these individuals more dominant. Ducks on the restricted diet gained less body mass than ducks on the ad libitum diet (HEPP, 1986), but dominant and subordinate black ducks within treatment groups experienced similar changes in body mass during the early winter. Dominant black ducks interacted more frequently and were more likely to form pair bonds than subordinates, thus higher energy costs of dominant individuals may explain the poor relationship between physical condition and dominance rank. There was a significant positive association between the dominance ranks of pair members.

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD 20708, U.S.A.

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