Preferred neck-resting position predicts aggression in Caribbean flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber)

Psychology Department, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Laterality (Impact Factor: 1.13). 08/2009; 15(6):629-38. DOI: 10.1080/13576500903081814
Source: PubMed


When flamingos rest, they typically lay their heads along their backs. In order to achieve this positioning they curve their necks to either the right or left of their midline. Previously we have shown both individual and flock-level laterality of preferred neck-resting direction, with most birds preferring to rest their necks to their right (Anderson, Williams, & O'Brien, 2009). As laterality has been shown to play a role in social cohesion (e.g., Rogers & Workman, 1989) and aggression (e.g., Vallortigara, Cozzutti, Tommasi, & Rogers, 2001), here we attempted to determine whether a flamingo's preferred neck-resting direction could be used to predict involvement in aggressive encounters. Results replicated the earlier flock-level preference for neck resting towards the right, and indicated that those flamingos preferring the left were more likely to be involved in aggressive encounters.

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    • "Stevens et al. (1992) suggested that egg losses in Chilean Flamingos were a result of intraspecific aggressive interactions at nesting mounds. Finally, Anderson et al. (2009) determined that preferred neck‐resting position predicts aggression in American Flamingos. Beyond these studies, aggressive conspecific interactions among captive flamingos and our understanding of how social interactions shift as individuals transition from nonbreeding to breeding status have gone largely unexplored. "
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    ABSTRACT: Many species of flamingo are endangered in the wild but common in zoos, where successful captive breeding programs are a management priority. Unlike their counterparts in the wild, captive flamingo individuals are easy to mark and follow, facilitating longitudinal data collection on social dynamics that may affect reproduction. We studied a captive group of American Flamingos at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, LA to document patterns of aggression between individuals during the onset of breeding. We used a social network approach to test whether overall aggression would be higher during courtship or following establishment of pair bonds. Aggression was higher following pair bond establishment than during courtship, suggesting that individuals in our study population may compete more intensely for resources such as nesting sites than for mates. We also found that males were more aggressive than females during all stages of the study period and that there was a positive relationship between age and aggression in males during the pair-bond stage. We discuss these findings in light of management practices for captive populations of flamingos and general patterns of aggression in social animals. Zoo Biol. XX:XX-XX, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Zoo Biology
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    ABSTRACT: This observational study of captive Caribbean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) sought to investigate the possible functions of unipedal and bipedal resting. In particular, this research sought to further examine the possibility that thermoregulation is a primary function of unipedal resting. Significant negative correlations were found between length of unipedal resting and average temperature, and between length of unipedal resting and average heat index, indicating that temperature is a major factor in determination of resting stance. A significant negative correlation was also obtained between length of unipedal resting and average wind chill, but as the observed wind chills did not significantly differ from the temperatures, such a finding is to be expected. These results suggest that flamingos rest on one leg for longer intervals in an attempt to conserve body heat. Further, a significant positive correlation between length of bipedal resting and average wind speed suggests that on windy days, a bipedal stance is preferred to enhance stability when resting.
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    ABSTRACT: Many vertebrate species are known to have a similar pattern of brain lateralization, often expressed as eye preferences or side biases. Fear and aggression are specializations of the right hemisphere, expressed as left-side biases. The left hemisphere categorizes stimuli and follows learnt rules of behaviour. Here, it is argued that eye, ear and nostril preferences could be useful in interpreting cognitive processes of individual animals and beneficially applied to predicting behaviour and improving welfare. Knowledge of lateralization may be particularly useful in reducing accidents involving large animals (e.g. flight and aggression of horses is stronger on their left side). The right hemisphere is highlighted as being important in welfare since its activity involves stress responses and the expression of intense emotions. It is hypothesized that a balance between left and right hemisphere activity aids welfare by preventing aggression, excessive fear, depression or negative cognitive bias. Ideas on how a balance between the hemispheres might be reinstated in animals suffering chronic stress and persistent right-hemisphere dominance are discussed. Limb preferences may reflect hemispheric dominance and be associated with different temperaments or personalities, as first found in primates. A relationship between limb preference and temperament, as well as state of health, is also present in four-legged animals. Lateral biases in moving a medial appendage, as seen in the tail wagging of dogs, can indicate which hemisphere is dominant and could be a social signal valuable in assessing welfare. In conclusion, knowledge of lateralization may be applied constructively to improving animal welfare.
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