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The role of individual differences and patterns of resolution in the formation of dominance orders in domestic hens triads

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Document pages: 16 pages

Abstract: This research compares the role of initial individual characteristics to that of patterns of resolution in which successive dominance relationships are established during the formation of triads in the domestic hen. Combining weight, prior victory or defeat in the site of encounter, and comb size, we created three levels of asymmetries on characteristics for triads of hens. The effects of these asymmetries were then examined on the resultant hierarchies and on the order of conflict resolution within triads under two different conditions of assembly. In one condition (simultaneous triad), the three hens were simultaneously introduced to each other and could thus freely choose their opponent. In the other condition (step-assembled triad), the hen predicted to occupy the highest rank was left on standby and introduced once the two other hens had settled dominance, thus disrupting the normal process of hierarchy formation by imposing the first sequence of dominance settlement. We found that the structure of triadic hierarchies can be predicted from individual characteristics existing prior to hierarchy formation. No differences in the resultant structures were found between conditions of introduction, though different paths of conflict resolution were followed indicating that individual differences had a more determining role on the resultant hierarchies than patterns of resolution. Beside showing that individual differences determine resultant triadic structures, the present results also show that the same end structures can be reached by following resolution paths that are not necessarily of the Double Dominance and Double Subordinance types as prescribed by Chase s model. It is also found that in the simultaneous condition hens select each other to form pairs. Therefore, individuals do not meet at random but choose each other as opponents. The two hens predicted from individual differences to occupy the highest ranks first settle dominance, followed by settlement between the winner of the previous encounter and the bystander.

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