Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Animal Behaviour 86:2 (August 2013), pp. 409–415; doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.05.034


Copyright © 2013 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Used by permission.


Status signals are thought to reduce costs of overt conflict over resources by advertising social status or an individual’s ability to win contests. While most studies have focused on single badges of status, recent empirical work has shown that multiple status signals may exist. To provide robust evidence for multiple badges of status, an experimental manipulation is required to decouple signals from one another and from other traits linked to fighting ability. Such experimental evidence is lacking for most studies of multiple status signals to date. We previously found that two plumage traits in golden-crowned sparrows, Zonotrichia atricapilla, were correlated with social dominance in encounters between unfamiliar individuals. To confirm that each plumage patch functions as an independent status signal, we experimentally augmented the sizes of the gold crown patch and the black crown patch during encounters between unfamiliar individuals with similar premanipulation crown sizes. In nearly all cases, the individual with the artificially augmented gold or black crown was dominant during the trial and manipulations of each color were equally successful in conferring dominance. The relative differences in crown sizes between manipulated and unmanipulated individuals in a dyad and mismatches in crown sizes of the manipulated bird led to escalation in gold trials, but these same factors were not significant for black trials. This study provides unequivocal evidence for multiple status signals: both black and gold crown patches influence social status per se and they do so independently of the other crown patch.