Stable cooperation requires plasticity whereby individuals are able to express competitive or cooperative behaviors depending on social context. To date, however, the physiological mechanisms that underlie behavioral variation in cooperative systems are poorly understood. We studied hormone-mediated behavior in the wire-tailed manakin (Pipra filicauda), a gregarious songbird whose cooperative partnerships and competition for status are both crucial for fitness. We used automated telemetry to monitor 136,000 cooperative interactions among male manakins over three field seasons, and we examined how circulating testosterone affects cooperation using 1500 hormone samples. Observational data show that in nonterritorial floater males, high testosterone is associated with increased cooperative behaviors and subsequent ascension to territorial status. In territory-holding males, however, both observational and experimental evidence demonstrate that high testosterone antagonizes cooperation. Moreover, circulating testosterone explains significant variation (2%–8%) in social behavior within each status class. Collectively, our findings show that the hormonal control of cooperation depends on a male’s social status. We propose that the status-dependent reorganization of hormone-regulatory pathways can facilitate stable cooperative partnerships and thus provide direct fitness benefits for males.

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American Naturalist
Department of Biology

Brandt Ryder, T. (T.), Dakin, R, Vernasco, B.J. (Ben J.), Evans, B.S. (Brian S.), Horton, B.M. (Brent M.), & Moore, I.T. (Ignacio T.). (2020). Testosterone modulates status-specific patterns of cooperation in a social network. American Naturalist, 195(1), 82–94. doi:10.1086/706236