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Predictors of social dominance and its role in social information use
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 15:11 authored by Fonti Kar
Social dominance is often determined through contest competition (physical combat). There are many factors that can influence the outcome of a contest, however very little is known about how prior contest experience can result in winner-loser effects. An individual’s dominance status can have profound effects on its fitness and behaviour but the effects of dominance on the ability to learn from others remain poorly understood. I use male Eastern Water skinks (Eulamprus quoyii) to understand 1) how prior contest experience influences contest outcome and test whether this depended on assessment stage and 2) the role dominance plays on social information use. I begin by exploring how contest experience influences behavioural traits under different levels of escalation. I show that prior winners were more likely to initiate contests and by doing so, initiators were much more likely to win in non-escalated contests. I then tested the effects of an observer’s dominance status of social information use in two association tasks. Contrary to my predictions, social dominance did not drive differences in social information use. Interestingly, lizards that viewed a demonstrator did not learn faster than the control group. My results, in light of a previous study on this species, seem to suggest that individuals may ignore social information from a demonstrator that may be similar in age or size. To the best of my knowledge, this study is the first to explore the effects on prior contest experience on behaviours in a context-dependent manner and to examine the effects of the outcome of these contests (i.e. dominance status) on social learning in a lizard.