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Journal Article

Juvenile greylag geese (Anser anser) discriminate between individual siblings

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Scheiber, I. B. R., Hohnstein, A., Kotrschal, K., & Weiß, B. M. (2011). Juvenile greylag geese (Anser anser) discriminate between individual siblings. PLoS One, 6(8): e22853. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022853.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-12B5-C
Social species that maintain individualised relationships with certain others despite continuous changes in age, reproductive status and dominance rank between group members ought to be capable of individual recognition. Tests of “true” individual recognition, where an individual recognises unique features of another, are rare, however. Often kinship and/or familiarity suffice to explain dyadic interactions. The complex relationships within a greylag goose flock suggest that they should be able to recognise individuals irrespective of familiarity or kinship. We tested whether six-week-old hand-raised greylags can discriminate between two of their siblings. We developed a new experimental protocol, in which geese were trained to associate social siblings with geometrical symbols. Subsequently, focals were presented with two geometrical symbols in the presence of a sibling associated with one of the symbols. Significant choice of the geometrical symbol associated with the target present indicated that focals were able to distinguish between individual targets. Greylag goslings successfully learned this association-discrimination task, regardless of genetic relatedness or sex of the sibling targets. Social relationships within a goose flock thus may indeed be based on recognition of unique features of individual conspecifics.