Early social environment influences the behaviour of a family-living lizard
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Early social environment can play a significant role in shaping behavioural development. For instance, in many social mammals and birds, isolation rearing results in individuals that are less exploratory, shyer, less social and more aggressive than individuals raised in groups. Moreover, dynamic aspects of social environments, such as the nature of relationships between individuals, can also impact the trajectory of development. We tested if being raised alone or socially affects behavioural development in the family-living tree skink, Egernia striolata. Juveniles were raised in two treatments: alone or in a pair. We assayed exploration, boldness, sociability and aggression repeatedly throughout each juvenile's first year of life, and also assessed social interactions between pairs to determine if juveniles formed dominant–subordinate relationships. We found that male and/or the larger skinks within social pairs were dominant. Developing within this social environment reduced skink growth, and subordinate skinks were more prone to tail loss. Thus, living with a conspecific was costly for E. striolata. The predicted negative effects of isolation failed to materialize. Nevertheless, there were significant differences in behavioural traits depending on the social environment (isolated, dominant or subordinate member of a pair). Isolated skinks were more social than subordinate skinks. Subordinate skinks also became more aggressive over time, whereas isolated and dominant skinks showed invariable aggression. Dominant skinks became bolder over time, whereas isolated and subordinate skinks were relatively stable in their boldness. In summary, our study is evidence that isolation rearing does not consistently affect behaviour across all social taxa. Our study also demonstrates that the social environment plays an important role in behavioural development of a family-living lizard.
Riley , J L , Noble , D W A , Byrne , R W & Whiting , M J 2017 , ' Early social environment influences the behaviour of a family-living lizard ' Royal Society Open Science , vol 4 , 161082 . DOI: 10.1098/rsos.161082
Royal Society Open Science
© 2017 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Financial support for this research was provided by the Australian Research Council (DP130102998; grant to M.J.W. and R.B.W.), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (scholarship to J.L.R.), the Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, and Macquarie University. D.W.A.N. was supported by an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (DE150101774) and UNSW Vice Chancellors Fellowship.
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