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Preening the Troops

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Science  18 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6083, pp. 828
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6083.828

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A 44-centimeter-long South African bird called the green wood hoopoe forms alliances among a breeding pair and up to 10 helpers. Just as humans shower hometown athletes with praise at pep rallies and postgame celebrations, green wood hoopoes boost in-group cooperative behavior by preening helpers more before and after "rallies" to settle disputes, which represents one of the best documented examples of group conflict management in animals other than primates. This avian behavior shows that it doesn't require a primate brain to reinforce social bonds in the face of an outside threat.