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Postconflict Third-Party Affiliation in Rooks, Corvus frugilegus
Seed, A.M., Clayton, N.S. & Emery, N.J. (2007) Current Biology 17:152-158
Conflict features in the lives of many animal species and induces social stress mediated by glucocorticoid hormones. Postconflict affiliation, between former opponents (reconciliation) or between former opponents and a bystander (third-party affiliation), has been suggested as a behavioral mechanism for reducing such stress, but has been studied almost exclusively in primates. As with many primates, several bird species live in social groups and form affiliative relationships. Do these distantly related animals also use affiliative behavior to offset the costs of conflict? We studied postconflict affiliation in a captive group of rooks. Unlike polygamous primates, monogamous rooks did not reconcile with former opponents. However, we found clear evidence of third-party affiliation after conflicts. Both initiators and targets of aggression engaged in third-party affiliation with a social partner and employed a specific behavior, bill twining, during the postconflict period. Both former aggressors and uninvolved third parties initiated affiliative contacts. Despite the long history of evolutionary divergence, the pattern of third-party affiliation in rooks is strikingly similar to that observed in tolerant primate species. Furthermore, the absence of reconciliation in rooks makes sense in light of the species differences in social systems.


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