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Social rank modulates how environmental quality influences cooperation and conflict within animal societies

Citation

Liu, Mark; Chen, Bo-Fei; Rubenstein, Dustin; Shen, Sheng-Feng (2020), Social rank modulates how environmental quality influences cooperation and conflict within animal societies, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5tb2rbp1s

Abstract

Although dominance hierarchies occur in most societies, our understanding of how these power structures influence individual investment in cooperative and competitive behaviors remains elusive. Both conflict and cooperation in animal societies are often environmentally-regulated, yet how individuals alter their cooperative and competitive investments as environmental quality changes remains unclear. Using game theoretic modeling, we predict that individuals of all ranks will invest more in cooperation and less in social conflict in harsh environments than individuals of the same ranks in benign environments. Counterintuitively, low ranking subordinates should increase their investment in cooperation proportionally more than high ranking dominants, suggesting that subordinates contribute relatively more when facing environmental challenges. We then test and confirm these predictions experimentally using the Asian burying beetle Nicrophorus nepalensis. Ultimately, we demonstrate how social rank modulates the relationships between environmental quality and cooperative and competitive behaviours, a topic crucial for understanding the evolution of complex societies.