Kin Association in Japanese Quail Chicks

Authors

  • Bruce Waldman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, and Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, Cambridge
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  • Patrick Bateson

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, and Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, Cambridge
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The Biological Laboratories, Harvard University, 16 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, U.S.A.

Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, High Street, Madingley, Cambridge CB3 8AA, U.K

Abstract

Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) have finely-tuned kin-recognition abilities that may serve a role in mate choice. To investigate whether these abilities are expressed in other life stages, we examined patterns of association among quail chicks in the laboratory four days after hatching. Hatchlings were reared either in mixed-family groups, consisting of siblings and nonsiblings, or in pure-family groups, consisting just of siblings. Chicks were highly social in testing sessions, as reflected in their clumped spatial distributions, and interacted more with their siblings than with nonsiblings. Siblings in each of four mixed-family groups preferentially associated with one another over nonsiblings. No discrimination was evident among differently marked siblings in four purefamily groups. Thus, at an early age, quail discriminate between siblings and nonsiblings despite social experience of both. Recognition abilities that develop prior to or soon after hatching may facilitate cooperation among chicks, may enable siblings to track each others' traits as they mature, or both.

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