Effects of early life adversity and sex on dominance in European starlings


Bedford T, Oliver CJ, Andrews C, Bateson M & Nettle D (2017) Effects of early life adversity and sex on dominance in European starlings. Animal Behaviour, 128, pp. 51-60.

Dominance in socially foraging animals may be related to sex and to variation in individual quality. Individual quality may in turn reflect conditions during early development. We studied dominance in a cohort of adult European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, that had been subject to experimental manipulations of food supply and begging effort when they were nestlings. We measured dominance in two different contexts, contests over a food resource and relative position on a sloping perch, over the course of 3 weeks. Dominance in food contests was extremely stable over the 3 weeks and relative perch position somewhat stable. Males were dominant over females in contests over food and perched in higher positions. These sex differences were not explained by males' greater size or body weight. Food dominance and perch position were uncorrelated. Neither early life food supply nor early life begging effort affected food dominance; nor did an alternative measure of developmental stress, developmental telomere attrition. Birds that had been made to beg more as nestlings perched in higher positions than those that had begged less. Our results did not support the hypothesis that early life adversity leads to lower adult dominance rank in the context of feeding, and we suggest that relative perch position may have measured individual preference rather than competitive ability.

birds; dominance; early life adversity; individual quality; resource competition; starlings

Animal Behaviour: Volume 128

FundersBBSRC, ERC and Faculty of Medical Sciences graduate school, Newcastle University
Publication date30/06/2017
Publication date online04/05/2017
Date accepted by journal09/03/2017
PublisherElsevier BV