Developmental stress predicts social network position

Neeltje Janna Boogert, Damien Farine, Karen Anne Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


The quantity and quality of social relationships, as captured by social network analysis, can have major fitness consequences. Various studies have shown that individual differences in social behaviour can be due to variation in exposure to developmental stress. However, whether these developmental differences translate to consistent differences in social network position is not known. We experimentally increased levels of the avian stress hormone corticosterone (CORT) in nestling zebra finches in a fully balanced design. Upon reaching nutritional independence, we released chicks and their families into two free-flying rooms, where we measured daily social networks over five weeks using passive integrated transponder tags. Developmental stress had a significant effect on social behaviour: despite having similar foraging patterns, CORT chicks had weaker associations to their parents than control chicks. Instead, CORT chicks foraged with a greater number of flock mates and were less choosy with whom they foraged, resulting in more central network positions. These findings highlight the importance of taking developmental history into account to understand the drivers of social organization in gregarious species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20140561
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2014


  • Corticosterone
  • Development
  • Foraging
  • Social network
  • Stress
  • Zebra finch


Dive into the research topics of 'Developmental stress predicts social network position'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this