Social animals often rely on hierarchical dominance relationships to avoid costly agonistic encounters resulting from competition for resources with conspecifics. We demonstrate that zebra finches do form dominance hierarchies in the laboratory under a food competition setting. Birds were placed into single-sex groups and competed against each other for food in repeated dyadic encounters. The dominant and subordinate behaviors each bird displayed towards another were recorded and analyzed in order to determine the dominance hierarchy of each group of birds. Each hierarchy was further validated by analyzing differences in feeding behaviors of dominant and subordinate birds. As zebra finches are a model organism used in genetics and neurobiology, further studies can examine the link between proximate mechanisms and ultimate explanations behind dominant/subordinate interactions. Studying dominance hierarchies in the laboratory can also help us understand the evolution of social structure and associated cognitive abilities.
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