Allogrooming, where an individual grooms another, has been extensively studied in various social animals to understand its role in the evolution of cooperation/prosociality. In existing studies in mammals, allogrooming has been suggested to exhibit not only a hygiene but also a social function. Allopreening, a topic of increasing interest in mammals but recently also in birds, has been studied mostly with mature animals. However, in some species immature individuals also show allopreening and its function remains poorly understood. Crows, Corvus spp., are an ideal model to study this phenomenon, because juveniles form year-round aggregates during their long juvenile stage (e.g., throughout 3–4 years). Here, we investigated the function of allopreening in juvenile groups of wild-caught large-billed crows (C. macrorhynchos). Allopreening frequency and duration for three groups of wild-caught juveniles were analysed to determine whether there was a symmetrical (i.e., reciprocal) or asymmetrical allopreening pattern, and if sex composition of the dyad and/or relative dominance of donor and recipient had an effect. We found that both the frequency and duration of male allopreening correlated with frequency of aggression. Allopreening between both males and females occurred unidirectionally from dominants to subordinates but not in the opposite direction. On the contrary, allopreening between a male and a female was found to be reciprocated, though the absolute frequency and duration were both greater in males than in females. These results suggest that the social function of allopreening in juvenile crows differs depending on the sex composition of the dyad, functioning as a dominance signal for same-sex dyads, and serving a social bonding function for opposite-sex dyads. These findings may reflect the potentially crucial roles of allopreening in within-sex competition and opposite-sex attraction during the 3 year-long juvenile stage affecting future mate choice in lifelong monogamy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology