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Am Nat. 2003 May;161(5):794-807. Epub 2003 May 2.

Buffered development: resilience after aggressive subordination in infancy.

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  • 1Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 70-275, México DF 4510, México. hugh@servidor.unam.mx


Do aggressive dominance and subordination in vertebrate broods and litters affect development? We examined 1,167 fledglings from two-chick broods of the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), a species in which the first-hatched chick dominates with violent attacks throughout the nestling period and subordinates suffer lower fledging success, but if both broodmates survive, they grow to the same size. There was little evidence that dominant fledglings were more likely to recruit into the breeding population than were subordinate fledglings, and there was no evidence that dominant and subordinate recruits differed in their age, date, brood size, or nest success at first reproduction or in their summed brood sizes or total nest success over the first 5 yr or first 10 yr of life. Compared with dominants, subordinate fledglings were less prejudiced by late hatching and established clutches earlier over the first 10 yr, and subordinate recruits had 33% larger broods over the first 5 yr. However, in broods where both chicks fledged, accumulated reproductive success for chicks up to age 5 yr was similar for dominants and subordinates. Exercising dominance throughout infancy apparently does not fortify a chick for the future and may incur a long-term cost, and suffering violent subordination throughout infancy has little or no prejudicial effect and may even steel a chick for adult life.

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