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The relationship between personality and social dominance in the domestic fowl – a critical perspective
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6435-011X
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Social dominance relationships are formed within numerous animal species and reduce costly fights over resources. Dominant individuals often enjoy greater access to important resources such as food and mating partners, and are generally more aggressive, bold, active and explorative compared to subdominant individuals. These behavioural traits can differ among individuals, but they can also be consistent within the individual, thereby describing the individual’s personality type. However, the causal direction of the observed correlation between dominance and personality is not well studied. One possibility is that some personality types have higher chances of obtaining a dominant social position. This would suggest that personality has consequences for fitness. Another possible explanation is that possessing different social positions gives rise to consistent behavioural differences among individuals on various timescales. If social status has a lasting effect on behaviour, social status would constitute a ‘stable state’ that explains some of the diversity of personality types that has been observed in a multitude of animal species. Dominance and personality may also share underlying proximate factors. In this thesis, I investigate the relationship between social dominance and personality using male domestic fowl, Gallus gallus domesticus. The species is group-living with pronounced dominance hierarchies, and dominance increases male access to mating partners. I show that some aspects of personality, exploration, vigilance and in particular aggressiveness, increased a male’s chances of obtaining dominance (paper III, IV, V), and that aggressiveness can be even more important than body weight and ornament size (comb size, paper V) or recent experience of winning or losing (paper IV). Winning a social interaction resulted in an increase in aggressiveness, while a decrease was seen in males that experienced a loss (paper IV). By observing behaviour before and after changes in male dominance relationships, I further show that a recent (2 days earlier) change in social status induced behavioural adjustments to the new social status in activity, exploration and vigilance (paper I). By extending the time of the new social relationship to 3 weeks, I show that such behavioural changes did not continue (paper II). Finally, I show that the social environment during juvenile development had little impact on adult male competitiveness (paper V). Social interactions appear to have several short-term effects on behaviour, but did not contribute significantly to variation and long-term consistency of personality in male fowl. Instead, a male's personality, and in particular his aggressiveness, affected the outcome of dominance interactions. Overall, my studies reveal important consequences of individual differences in behaviour, and contribute to the highly sought-after empirical testing of hypotheses explaining variation in animal personality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University , 2017. , 63 p.
Keyword [en]
aggression, behavioural syndromes, chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus, intra-sexual selection, resource holding potential, social hierarchy, social rank
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142348ISBN: 978-91-7649-838-5 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-839-2 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-142348DiVA: diva2:1092274
Public defence
2017-06-16, sal E306, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Svante Arrhenius väg 20 C, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-05-22 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2017-05-18Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Social status and personality: stability in social state can promote consistency of behavioural responses
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social status and personality: stability in social state can promote consistency of behavioural responses
2014 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 281, no 1774, 20132531Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Stability of 'state' has been suggested as an underlying factor explaining behavioural stability and animal personality (i.e. variation among, and consistency within individuals in behavioural responses), but the possibility that stable social relationships represent such states remains unexplored. Here, we investigated the influence of social status on the expression and consistency of behaviours by experimentally changing social status between repeated personality assays. We used male domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus), a social species that forms relatively stable dominance hierarchies, and showed that behavioural responses were strongly affected by social status, but also by individual characteristics. The level of vigilance, activity and exploration changed with social status, whereas boldness appeared as a stable individual property, independent of status. Furthermore, variation in vocalization predicted future social status, indicating that individual behaviours can both be a predictor and a consequence of social status, depending on the aspect in focus. Our results illustrate that social states contribute to both variation and stability in behavioural responses, and should therefore be taken into account when investigating and interpreting variation in personality.

Keyword
behavioural syndromes, intra-sexual selection, phenotypic plasticity, social dominance, chicken
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-102797 (URN)10.1098/rspb.2013.2531 (DOI)000332380200015 ()
Note

AuthorCount:4;

Available from: 2014-04-23 Created: 2014-04-22 Last updated: 2017-05-17Bibliographically approved
2. Personality remains: no effect of three-week social status experience on personality in male fowl
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Personality remains: no effect of three-week social status experience on personality in male fowl
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Individuals often differ in behavior in a consistent way, i.e. show variation in personality. Understanding the processes explaining the emergence and maintenance of this variation is a major topic in the field of animal behavioral research. Recent theoretical models predict that differences in various 'states' can generate individual variation in behavior. Previous studies have mainly focused on endogenous states like metabolic rate or energy reserves, but theory also suggests that more complex states based on social interactions could play important roles in shaping personality. We have earlier demonstrated short-term status-dependent variation in behavior in the domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus), but whether such behavioral variation remains also after a longer period of time, is unknown. Therefore, we examine the influence of social status on variation in behavior, using experimental manipulation of social status in pairs of male domestic fowl. We scored males in three personality assays (aggression test, novel arena test, novel object test) before and after three weeks in pairs as either dominant or subdominant. We found no support for social status acting as a state that generates variation in personality over this time interval: social status had no significant effect on behavioral responses in personality tests. Instead, we observed individual consistency of behavior despite alteration of social status. Our results suggest that the effect of social environment on behavior is dependent on context and time, and that personality is more important than current social situation for describing individual behavior in stable groups.

Keyword
aggression, behavioral syndrome, chicken, comb size, Gallus gallus domesticus, social hierarchy
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142345 (URN)
Funder
Linköpings universitet, Future research leadersHelge Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse
Available from: 2017-05-02 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2017-05-17Bibliographically approved
3. Personality predicts social dominance in male domestic fowl
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Personality predicts social dominance in male domestic fowl
2014 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 9, no 7, e103535Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Individuals in social species commonly form dominance relationships, where dominant individuals enjoy greater access to resources compared to subordinates. A range of factors such as sex, age, body size and prior experiences has to varying degrees been observed to affect the social status an individual obtains. Recent work on animal personality (i.e. consistent variation in behavioural responses of individuals) demonstrates that personality can co-vary with social status, suggesting that also behavioural variation can play an important role in establishment of status. We investigated whether personality could predict the outcome of duels between pairs of morphologically matched male domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus), a species where individuals readily form social hierarchies. We found that males that more quickly explored a novel arena, or remained vigilant for a longer period following the playback of a warning call were more likely to obtain a dominant position. These traits were uncorrelated to each other and were also uncorrelated to aggression during the initial part of the dominance-determining duel. Our results indicate that several behavioural traits independently play a role in the establishment of social status, which in turn can have implications for the reproductive success of different personality types.

National Category
Zoology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-107998 (URN)10.1371/journal.pone.0103535 (DOI)000341307600059 ()
Note

AuthorCount:3;

Available from: 2014-10-06 Created: 2014-10-06 Last updated: 2017-05-17Bibliographically approved
4. Individual aggression, but not winner–loser effects, predicts social rank in male domestic fowl
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Individual aggression, but not winner–loser effects, predicts social rank in male domestic fowl
2017 (English)In: Behavioral Ecology, ISSN 1045-2249, E-ISSN 1465-7279, Vol. 28, no 3, 874-882 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Many factors can affect the probability for an individual to obtain a high social rank, including size, weaponry, and behavioral attributes such as aggression. Recent experiences of winning or losing can also affect the chances of winning future contests, commonly referred to as “winner–loser effects”. Individuals often differ in behavior in a consistent way, including in aggression, thereby showing differences in personality. However, the relative importance of recent experience and aspects of personality in determining rank, as well as the extent to which winning or losing affects aggression, has rarely been studied. Here, we investigate these questions using male domestic fowl. We matched males for body size, comb size, and aggression in pair-wise duels to: 1) study the effect of contest outcome on aggression and 2) compare the effect of individual aggression and contest experience on future social status in small groups. We found that aggression was a highly repeatable personality trait and that aggression increased after winning and decreased after losing. Nevertheless, such winner–loser effects were not enough to increase the odds of becoming dominant in a small group. Instead, aggressiveness measured prior to a contest experience best predicted future rank. Boldness and exploration did not predict rank and of the 2, only boldness was positively correlated with aggressiveness. We conclude that for male domestic fowl in contests among phenotypically matched contestants, aggressiveness is more important for obtaining high rank than winner–loser effects, or other aspects of personality.

Keyword
behavioral syndrome, Gallus gallus domesticus, personality, resource holding potential, social dominance status, social hierarchies
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142347 (URN)10.1093/beheco/arx053 (DOI)000401942800037 ()
Funder
Linköpings universitet, Future research leadersLars Hierta Memorial Foundation, FO2012-0690
Available from: 2017-05-02 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2017-06-26Bibliographically approved
5. Effects of social experience during development on competitive ability and personality traits in male domestic fowl
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects of social experience during development on competitive ability and personality traits in male domestic fowl
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The ability to dominate conspecifics and thereby gain access to important resources depends on a number of traits and skills that may be both heritable and influenced by the environment. Experience of dominance relationships during development is a potential source of learning such skills. We here study the relative importance of social experience, personality, and morphological traits on competitive ability in male domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus). By letting males grow up as either a single (dominant) male, as the dominant male of a pair, or as an intermediate ranked male in a group of males, we investigate if competitiveness in social interactions (winning duels) is mainly due to individual qualities or also influenced by social experience. We found that males were consistent over time in their competitive ability. Single raised males were inferior to pair dominant males and group-raised males in competitive ability, while pair dominant and group males did not differ significantly. This indicates that social training is important for future fighting success, but that the social position during development does not have a decisive influence on male fighting success in adulthood. Aggression and comb size, the latter possibly being a proxy for testosterone levels, had a marked effect on competitive ability. Together, our results indicate that certain behavioural and morphological traits are more important than experience of a social position in shaping competitive ability. These findings elucidate the relationship between social dominance and personality.

Keyword
aggression, ontogeny, personality, social dominance, social rank, social status, social niche
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142346 (URN)
Funder
Linköpings universitet, Future research leaders
Available from: 2017-05-02 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2017-05-17Bibliographically approved

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