Do female Norway rats form social bonds?
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Social bonds reflect specific and enduring relationships among conspecifics. In some group-living animals, they have been found to generate immediate and long-term fitness benefits. It is currently unclear how important and how widespread social bonds are in animals other than primates. It has been hypothesized that social bonds may help in establishing stable levels of reciprocal cooperation. Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) reciprocate received help to an unrelated social partner. It is hitherto unknown, however, whether this cooperative behaviour is based on the establishment of social bonds among involved individuals. Norway rats live in social groups that can be very large; hence, without bonds, it may be difficult to keep track of other individuals and their previous behaviour, which is a precondition for generating evolutionarily stable levels of cooperation based on direct reciprocity. Here we tested whether wild-type female rats form bonds among each other, which are stable both over time and across different contexts. In addition, we scrutinized the potential influence of social rank on the establishment of bonds. Despite the fact that the hierarchy structure within groups remained stable over the study period, no stable social bonds were formed between group members. Apparently, social information from consecutive encounters with the same social partner is not accumulated. The lack of long-term social bonds might explain why rats base their decisions to cooperate primarily on the last encounter with a social partner, which may differ from other animals where cooperation is based on the existence of long-term social bonds.
Schweinfurth , M K , Neuenschwander , J , Engqvist , L , Schneeberger , K , Rentsch , A K , Gygax , M & Taborsky , M 2017 , ' Do female Norway rats form social bonds? ' , Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology , vol. 71 , 98 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-017-2324-2
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Copyright © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-017-2324-2
DescriptionThis study was funded by the SNF-grant 31003A_156152 provided to MT.
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