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Behavioral Ecology 23, 6 (2012) 1178-1185
Coping with social stress: heart rate responses to agonistic interactions in king penguins
Vincent A. Viblanc1, Victorien Valette1, Marion Kauffmann1, Nelly Malosse1, René Groscolas1

In colonial breeders, agonistic interactions between conspecifics are frequent and may have significant physiological implications. Physiological responses (e.g., increased heart rate) to such social stressors may be determined by the potential costs of agonistic interactions, such as personal injury or risk of breeding failure, and by the motivation of the individuals concerned. The latter may vary according to individuals' reproductive status or willingness to engage in agonistic interactions. In this study, we investigated heart rate responses to aggressive interactions in a breeding colony of king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus. From heart rate (HR) and behavior recorded in 20 adults at various stages of the breeding season, we investigated how king penguins reacted to aggressive neighbors. A total of 589 agonistic interactions, 223 in which birds were actors and 366 in which birds remained bystanders (i.e., witnesses that were not involved in interactions), were characterized. We found that HR increased during agonistic interactions, both in actors and bystanders. The intensity (threat displays or physical attacks), duration, and rate of aggressive events (number of threats/blows per unit time) of an interaction significantly influenced the HR response in actors. For bystanders, however, only the duration of interactions seemed to matter. Our results also suggest a role for individual motivation, as initiators of agonistic interactions displayed higher HR increases than responders, and as increases were not constant throughout the reproductive season. We conclude that individual risk assessment and motivation modulate physiological responses to social stressors in group-living animals
1:  DEPE-IPHC - Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie
Environmental Sciences

Life Sciences/Biodiversity/Populations and Evolution
agressive behavior – colonial breeding – context assessment – heart rate modulation – motivation – stress