Reconciliation and third-party affiliation in pair-bond budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus)

in Behaviour
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Some group-living animals show conciliatory tendencies towards specific group members after conflicts, referred to as post-conflict affiliation (PC-affiliation). PC-affiliation with a former opponent and a third-party bystander is classified as ‘reconciliation’ and ‘third-party affiliation’, respectively. PC-affiliation is assumed to be mediated by high-quality social relationships between individuals. Recently, studies assessing lifelong monogamous birds, such as corvids, have found PC-affiliation as a case of convergent evolution with regard to primates. Nevertheless, PC-affiliation divergence in birds is still poorly understood. Here, we report that pair-bonds of budgerigars, a lifelong-monogamous small parrot, engage in both reconciliation and third-party affiliation. We also found that males initiated both types of PC-affiliation more often than females. However, during reconciliation, this skewed affiliation pattern was unlikely specific to the PC-context but could also stem from sex differences in basic social-behavioural features (i.e., female dominance over males and males’ primary role in initiating affiliation with females), which are common outside the PC-context. Conversely, the third-party PC-affiliation pattern was significantly different from the basic affiliation pattern: affiliations were initiated more often by combatant winners, by bystander males toward defeated females, and less often by defeated males. These results suggest specific signal and stress reduction functions related to PC-affiliation among budgerigar pair-bonds. The present study supports the view that PC-affiliations, based on high-quality relationships, did not only evolve in mammals but also in birds, with species-specific forms associated with social behavioural tendencies.

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Figures
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    Distribution of reconciliation rates. Observed and simulated data are shown in open and shaded symbols, respectively. Asterisks indicate a significant difference between the two distributions at p<0.05.

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    Distribution of third-party affiliation rates. Observed and simulated data are shown in open and shaded symbols, respectively. Asterisks indicate a significant difference at p<0.05.

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