Why Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Science Signaling  18 Aug 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 84, pp. ec277
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.284ec277

The biological determination of sociality, that is, why one might choose to associate with others and how many, has been unclear. Goodson et al. show that in gregarious finches, oxytocin-like receptors and their cognate ligand, mesotocin, are associated with group size choices. Receptor distributions clearly differentiate territorial species from flocking species. Furthermore, these compounds appear to play a role in affecting choice in affiliation in mammals and thus may be conserved across evolutionarily distant taxa.

J. L. Goodson, S. E. Schrock, J. D. Klatt, D. Kabelik, M. A. Kingsbury, Mesotocin and nonapeptide receptors promote estrildid flocking behavior. Science 325, 862–866 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]