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Elevation related variation in aggressive response to mirror image in mountain chickadees

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Behavioural syndrome literature suggests that behavioural traits may be coupled to form behavioural strategies that are consistent and repeatable across contexts. Typically these behavioural types are composed of bold, aggressive, dominant individuals and shy, less aggressive, subordinate individuals. Mountain chickadees living in varying climatic conditions across a montane environment appear to exhibit consistent behavioural types, such that high elevation birds, which experience harsher winter conditions and rely more heavily on spatial memory to retrieve food caches to survive winter, explore a novel environment at a slower rate (i.e., shy) and are socially subordinate to low elevation birds. Dominance is typically expressed in individual pairwise interactions, but it is not always clear which traits predispose an individual to become a dominant in such interactions. Aggression is frequently suggested to be associated with higher dominance status, yet the data are equivocal. Here we aimed to test whether previously described elevation related differences in social dominance might be associated with elevation related differences in aggression levels in mountain chickadees by using the mirror test. The mirror test can address potential differences in reactive and proactive aggression, although caution should be taken when using the mirror test as some species are able to self-recognize. Low elevation birds responded more aggressively to their mirror image than high elevation birds, suggesting that elevation related differences in aggression may be partially responsible for previously found differences in social dominance status.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology and Graduate Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, University of Nevada, Max Fleischmann Agriculture Building, 1664 N. Virginia Street, Reno, NV 89557, USA

10.1163/1568539X-00003248
/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003248
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/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003248
2015-03-20
2017-11-23

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