Social dominance and fitness in black-capped chickadees

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Ecol. and Behav. of Chickadees and Titmice: An Integr. Approach


This chapter examines the naturally- and sexually-selected consequences of social rank in a population of black-capped chickadees studied for over a decade in eastern Ontario, Canada. The discussion begins with a review of what is known about the characteristics that distinguish individuals attaining high social rank from subordinates. Aspects of status signaling, such as song and plumage features, as well as rank-related differences in survival and annual reproductive success, are explored. Using extensive observations of interactions among color-banded individuals, the process by which dominance hierarchies are maintained is described. The effects of individual variation in rank acquisition on lifetime reproductive success (LRS) are then addressed. Analysis of LRS was used to compare how the overall genetic contribution of individuals is affected by both lifespan and reproductive strategies. Breeding lifespan has been identified as the most important predictor of LRS in mammals and birds; nevertheless the interaction between social rank and LRS may also be significant and warrants investigation. © Oxford University Press, 2007. All rights reserved.