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Artificial mass loading disrupts stable social order in pigeon dominance hierarchies

Portugal, S J; Usherwood, J R; White, C R; Sankey, D W E; Wilson, A M


S J Portugal

J R Usherwood

C R White

D W E Sankey

A M Wilson


Dominance hierarchies confer benefits to group members by decreasing the incidences of physical conflict, but may result in certain lower ranked individuals consistently missing out on access to resources. Here, we report a linear dominance hierarchy remaining stable over time in a closed population of birds. We show that this stability can be disrupted, however, by the artificial mass loading of birds that typically comprise the bottom 50% of the hierarchy. Mass loading causes these low-ranked birds to immediately become more aggressive and rise-up the dominance hierarchy; however, this effect was only evident in males and was absent in females. Removal of the artificial mass causes the hierarchy to return to its previous structure. This interruption of a stable hierarchy implies a strong direct link between body mass and social behaviour and suggests that an individual's personality can be altered by the artificial manipulation of body mass.


Portugal, S. J., Usherwood, J. R., White, C. R., Sankey, D. W. E., & Wilson, A. M. (2020). Artificial mass loading disrupts stable social order in pigeon dominance hierarchies. Biology Letters, 16(8), 20200468

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 15, 2020
Publication Date Aug 5, 2020
Deposit Date Sep 7, 2020
Publicly Available Date Sep 10, 2020
Journal Biology Letters
Print ISSN 1744-9561
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 8
Pages 20200468
Public URL
Publisher URL


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