The relationship between social rank, neophobia and individual learning in starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

Neeltje Janna Boogert, S M Reader, Kevin Neville Laland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Researchers with diverse interests in topics ranging from the formation of dominance hierarchies and social intelligence to animal personalities have predicted specific, and often conflicting, relations between social rank, neophobia and learning ability. We investigated the relations between these variables in captive groups of wild-caught starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, adopting a multidimensional approach to social rank and neophobia. Both agonistic and competitive rank orders were determined for each group and we tested individuals in the absence of their groupmates for object neophobia, latency to feed in a novel environment and performance on an extractive foraging task. In each starling group, the fastest learners occupied the highest competitive ranks, supporting the hypothesis that cognitive ability is positively correlated with social dominance. Competitive rank orders, however, did not correlate significantly with agonistic rank orders. Situation-specific foraging neophobia was suggested: individuals showed consistency in their latencies to feed near a variety of novel objects, but no significant correlation was found between this measure of object neophobia and latency to feed in a novel environment. Starlings fastest to feed in the novel environment were fastest in solving the foraging task. We discuss the implications of these findings for researchers studying hierarchy formation in animal groups, social intelligence and animal personalities. (c) 2006 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1229-1239
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume72
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006

Keywords

  • HIERARCHY FORMATION
  • STURNUS-VULGARIS
  • FLUCTUATING ASYMMETRIES
  • DOMINANCE HIERARCHIES
  • FEMALE STARLINGS
  • ZENAIDA DOVES
  • COMPETITION
  • INNOVATION
  • BEHAVIOR
  • FOOD

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