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A longitudinal study of dominance and aggression in greylag geese (Anser anser)


  • Brigitte M. Weiß
  • Kurt Kotrschal
  • Katharina Foerster


A variety of factors are known to affect dominance and aggression in social vertebrates. In the present study, we used a long-term data set on greylag geese (Anser anser) to investigate the complex relationships between individual life histories, the social environment, and dominance-related behaviors. We applied a multifactorial approach to assess the relative importance of factors in different life-history stages. Previous studies in geese documented effects of sex and social status and achieved differing results for the effects of family size, age, and body weight on dominance and aggression. Extrinsic factors like season or flock structure were generally not considered. Our analyses showed that a considerable number of factors related to individual life histories, season, and the social environment affected dominance and aggression in greylag geese, but not all significant effects were necessarily strong effects. Pronounced effects on aggression rates were caused by the flock's sex ratio, parental effects, individual social status, and sex. Whether individuals interacted with the same opponents repeatedly was influenced most by parental effects and the sex ratio, whereas the strongest determinants of dominance rank were parental effects and social status. Hence, dominance behaviors may not only be influenced by intrinsic factors but also by season and an individual's social environment. Furthermore, our study indicates that optimal choices for achieving or maintaining a high dominance rank may vary considerably between life-history stages. This highlights the value of long-term studies and multifactorial approaches for understanding the complexities of dominance relationships in social vertebrates. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Brigitte M. Weiß & Kurt Kotrschal & Katharina Foerster, 2011. "A longitudinal study of dominance and aggression in greylag geese (Anser anser)," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(3), pages 616-624.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:616-624

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