Life history costs of olfactory status signalling in mice
- Cite this article as:
- Gosling, L., Roberts, S., Thornton, E. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2000) 48: 328. doi:10.1007/s002650000242
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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.