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Horm Behav. 2015 Jul;73:131-4. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.07.012. Epub 2015 Jul 18.

Sex-reversed correlation between stress levels and dominance rank in a captive non-breeder flock of crows.

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Department of Psychology, Keio University, Tokyo 108-8345, Japan.
Companion Animal Research, School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan.
Department of Psychology, Keio University, Tokyo 108-8345, Japan. Electronic address:


Group living has both benefits and costs to individuals; benefits include efficient acquisition of resources, and costs include stress from social conflicts among group members. Such social challenges result in hierarchical dominance ranking among group members as a solution to avoid escalating conflict that causes different levels of basal stress between individuals at different ranks. Stress-associated glucocorticoid (corticosterone in rodents and birds; CORT) levels are known to correlate with dominance rank in diverse taxa and to covary with various social factors, such as sex and dominance maintenance styles. Although there is much evidence for sex differences in the basal levels of CORT in various species, the correlation of sex differences in basal CORT with dominance rank is poorly understood. We investigated the correlation between CORT metabolites (CM) in the droppings and social factors, including rank and sex, in a captive non-breeder group of crows. In this group, all the single males dominated all the single females, and dominance ranks were stable among single males but relatively unstable among single females. CM levels and rank were significantly correlated in a sex-reversed fashion: males at higher rank (i.e., more dominant) had higher CM, whereas females at higher rank exhibited lower CM. This is the first evidence of sex-reversed patterns of CM-rank correlation in birds. The results suggest that different mechanisms of stress-dominance relationships operate on the sexes in non-breeder crow aggregations; in males, stress is associated with the cost of aggressive displays, whereas females experience subordination stress due to males' overt aggression.


Bird; Corvus; Dominance; Glucocorticoid; Social bond; Social hierarchy; Stress; Subordinate

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