Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Effects of early-life adversity and sex on dominance in European starlings

Lookup NU author(s): Thomas Bedford, Caroline Oliver, Dr Clare Andrews, Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD, Professor Daniel Nettle



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Dominance in socially-foraging animals may be related to sex, and to variation in individual quality. Individual quality may in turn reflect conditions during early development. We studied dominance in a cohort of adult European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that had been subject to experimental manipulations of food supply and begging effort when they were nestlings. We measured dominance in two different contexts, contests over a food resource and relative position on a sloping perch, over the course of three weeks. Dominance in food contests was extremely stable over the three weeks, and relative perch position somewhat stable. Males were dominant over females in contests over food, and perched in higher positions. These sex differences were not explained by males’ greater size or body weight. Food dominance and perch position were uncorrelated. Neither early-life food supply nor early-life begging effort affected food dominance, and nor did an alternative measure of developmental stress, developmental telomere attrition. Birds that had been made to beg more as nestlings perched in higher positions than those that had begged less. Our results did not support the hypothesis that early-life adversity leads to lower adult dominance rank in the context of feeding, and we suggest that relative perch position may have measured individual preference rather than competitive ability.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bedford T, Oliver CJ, Andrews C, Bateson M, Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animal Behaviour

Year: 2017

Volume: 128

Pages: 51-60

Print publication date: 01/06/2017

Online publication date: 04/05/2017

Acceptance date: 09/03/2017

Date deposited: 14/03/2017

ISSN (print): 0003-3472

ISSN (electronic): 1095-8282

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.03.026


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
BB/J016446/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
ERC (AdG 666669 COMSTAR)