, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 328-332

Life history costs of olfactory status signalling in mice

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Large body size confers a competitive advantage in animal contests but does not always determine the outcome. Here we explore the trade-off between short-term achievement of high social status and longer-term life history costs in animals which vary in competitive ability. Using laboratory mice, Mus musculus, as a model system, we show that small competitors can initially maintain dominance over larger males by increasing investment in olfactory status signalling (scent-marking), but only at the cost of reduced growth rate and body size. As a result they become more vulnerable to dominance reversals later in life. Our results also provide the first empirical information about life history costs of olfactory status signals.