, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 77-84

A game model for dominance relations among group-living animals

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We present here an attempt to understand behaviors of dominant individuals and of subordinate individuals as behavior strategies in an asymmetric “hawk-dove” game. We assume that contestants have perfect information about relative fighting ability and the value of the resource. Any type of asymmetry, both relevant to and irrelevant to the fighting ability, can be considered. It is concluded that evolutionarily stable strategies (ESSs) depend on the resource value (V), the cost of injury (D), and the probability that the individual in one role will win (x). Different ESSs can exist even when values of V, D, and x are the same. The characteristics of dominance relations detected by observers may result from the ESSs that the individuals are adopting. The model explains some characteristics of dominance relations, for example, the consistent outcome of contests, the rare occurrence of escalated fights, and the discrepancy between resource holding potential (RHP) and dominance relations, from the viewpoint of individual selection.

Received: 7 May 1997 / Accepted after revision: 17 October 1997