Personality does not predict social dominance in wild groups of black-capped chickadees

Research paper by Isabelle Devost, Teri B. Jones; Maxime Cauchoix; Chloé Montreuil-Spencer; Julie Morand-Ferron

Indexed on: 09 Nov '16Published on: 03 Nov '16Published in: Animal Behaviour


Publication date: December 2016 Source:Animal Behaviour, Volume 122 Author(s): Isabelle Devost, Teri B. Jones, Maxime Cauchoix, Chloé Montreuil-Spencer, Julie Morand-Ferron Dominance hierarchies characterize social groups of various species and can significantly influence individual fitness. Personality traits, consistent behavioural differences between individuals, have been proposed to influence individuals' social status. However, few studies so far have investigated the link between personality traits and dominance in groups of animals in the wild. Here, we investigated the relationship between three personality traits hypothesized to be linked to the proactive–reactive axis (i.e. exploration, activity and object neophilia) and dominance in wild groups of black-capped chickadees, Poecile atricapillus, a resident passerine bird that overwinters in flocks characterized by linear dominance hierarchies. We predicted that if dominance is linked to personality within these social groups, dominant individuals should be more exploratory, active and neophilic than subordinates. Dominance relationships in our groups of black-capped chickadees were highly transitive and asymmetric, which is typical of linear hierarchies. However, none of the personality traits were significantly correlated with dominance, and there was no evidence that they correlated as part of a syndrome. These results suggest that proactive–reactive personality traits do not contribute to the establishment of black-capped chickadee hierarchies in the wild. We discuss the growing body of evidence suggesting that individual attributes are not sufficient to explain the linearity of many dominance hierarchies found in nature.