, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 439-446
Date: 13 Dec 2003

Territorial defense in a group-living solitary forager: who, where, against whom?

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Abstract

Territoriality is of great significance for many species and a characteristic of most group-living animals. Territoriality is thought to lead to increased reproductive success by defending a particular area containing critical resources. I describe several factors that influence territorial aggression in free-ranging striped mice (Rhabdomys pumilio), a group-living solitary forager. I induced territorial aggression by attracting mice of different groups using bait either at territory boundaries or in front of nests. Striped mice are territorial and make decisions about whether or not to attack a mouse from another group based upon several factors: (1) the sex of the opponent: males are much more likely to attack strange males than strange females, whereas no sex specific aggression was observed in females; (2) the body size of the opponent: striped mice are much more likely to attack a strange mouse that is lighter than themselves; and (3) the location of encounters: striped mice are much more likely to attack strangers, even those significantly heavier than themselves, in front of the nest than at territory boundaries. These variations in territorial responses between different types of individuals may be due to the different ultimate consequences of territorial aggression for different animals.

Communicated by S. Alberts