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Closed Access item Daily body mass regulation in dominance-structured coal tit (Parus ater) flocks in response to variable food access: a laboratory study
Bautista, Luis M.
|Keywords:||Body mass regulation, Coal tits, Food access, Social rank, Starvation risk, Parus ater|
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Citation:||Behavioral Ecology, 13(5): 696-704|
|Abstract:||In a dominance-structured flock, social status may determine priority of access to food. Birds of low social status may perceive
present and future access to food as less predictable, and so have a higher risk of starvation, than birds of high social rank.
Theoretical models predict that subordinate birds should carry larger fat reserves and incur higher mass-dependent costs than
dominants. However, empirical tests of the assumptions of these models are still scarce and controversial. We investigated the
effect of dominance rank on daily mass gain under conditions of fluctuating food availability in a laboratory experiment using
four flocks of four coal tits (Parus ater) each. The same amount of food was delivered in two treatments, but in one treatment
the food was offered at a constant rate between days (fixed treatment), while in the other treatment the daily food supply varied
in an unpredictable sequence between days (variable treatment). All birds showed greater variance in body mass in the variable
treatment than in the fixed treatment. Body mass within birds showed the same variability at dawn than at dusk in the fixed
treatment, but less variability at dawn than at dusk in the variable treatment. This may be a mechanism to reduce the immediate
risk of starvation at the beginning of the day, when fat reserves are at their lowest and the aggression between flock members
when feeding highest. Subordinate birds were excluded from the feeders by dominants more often in the early morning than in the rest of the day, and they showed more variability in daily mass gain and body mass at dawn than dominant birds. These results support the hypothesis that subordinate birds have a reduced probability of surviving when food availability changes unexpectedly compared to dominants.|
|Publisher version (URL):||http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/15/4/549.full|
|Appears in Collections:||(MNCN) Artículos|
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