Endangered California condors' social structure is survival tool

July 16, 2013 at 7:12 PM
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SAN DIEGO, July 16 (UPI) -- California condors, an endangered species, have a complex system of interactions based on dominance to help them survive, wildlife scientists say.

An individual bird that does not successfully integrate into the structure will have reduced survivability, they said.

The condors' social interactions could not be studied until recently due to the severe reduction of this population in the wild, and was only possible through remote video observation of reintroduced populations, researchers at the Zoological Society of San Diego said.

"We were able to engage in this effort due to the use of new technologies that allow us to observe these newly reintroduced groups without disturbing them," conservation biologist James Sheppard said. "This ongoing study provides us information about these unique birds that was essentially lost when the populations disappeared in the wild, and will help us with our ongoing efforts to recover this species."

The California condor was reduced to little more than a dozen individuals in the 1980s before a collaborative captive-breeding program raised the population to the point where this species could be reintroduced into the wild.

The study, published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, outlines the nature of the condors' hierarchical social structure and the role dominance plays among the group.

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