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Effect of rearing style on the development of social behaviour in young ravens (Corvus corax)

Boucherie, Palmyre H., Blum, Christian, Bugnyar, Thomas
Ethology 2020 v.126 no.6 pp. 595-609
Corvus corax, birds, juveniles, parents, peers, rearing, siblings, social behavior
Early social experiences can affect the development and expression of individual social behaviour throughout life. In particular, early‐life social deprivations, notably of parental care, can later have deleterious consequences. We can, therefore, expect rearing procedures such as hand‐raising—widely used in ethology and socio‐cognitive science—to alter the development of individual social behaviour. We investigated how the rearing style later affected (a) variation in relationship strength among peers and (b) individuals’ patterns of social interactions, in three captive groups of juvenile non‐breeders consisting of either parent‐raised or hand‐raised birds, or a mix of both rearing styles. In the three groups, irrespectively of rearing style: strongest relationships (i.e., higher rates of association and affiliations) primarily emerged among siblings and familiar partners (i.e., non‐relatives encountered in early life), and mixed‐sex and male–male partners established relationships of similar strength, indicating that the rearing style does not severely affect the quality and structure of relationships in young ravens. However, compared to parent‐raised ravens, hand‐raised ravens showed higher connectedness, i.e., number of partners with whom they mainly associated and affiliated, but formed on average relationships of lower strength, indicating that social experience in early life is not without consequences on the development of ravens’ patterns of social interaction. The deprivation of parental care associated with the presence of same‐age peers during hand‐raising seemed to maximize ravens’ propensity to interact with others, indicating that besides parents, interactions with same‐age peers matter. Opportunities to interact with, and socially learn from peers, might thus be the key to the acquisition of early social competences in ravens.