Experimental evidence for reciprocity in allogrooming among wild-type Norway rats

Manon K. Schweinfurth, Binia Stieger, Michael Taborsky

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38 Citations (Scopus)
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If individuals help more those who have previously helped them, stable cooperation may ensue through alternation of roles between donors and recipients. Allogrooming, which is costly to donors and beneficial to recipients, is often exchanged between social partners. Arguably, allogrooming and allopreening are the most frequently exchanged social services and have been used as a standard model of reciprocal cooperation. However, evidence for the application of reciprocity rules among social partners allogrooming each other hitherto is merely correlational. Here, we tested whether female Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) apply the decision rule characterising direct reciprocity: help someone who has helped you before, by experimentally manipulating both the need for allogrooming and the behavioural response. Furthermore, we checked whether trading of grooming services is influenced by the rank of the social partner. We show that rats groom social partners reciprocally and prefer to do so up the hierarchy, i.e. they groom dominant partners more often than subordinates, while reciprocating with both. This provides experimental evidence that animals render a costly social service by applying reciprocity decision rules when showing a natural hygienic behaviour. The fact that allogrooming is more readily shown up the hierarchy may suggest an appeasing function.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4010
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017


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