Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 369–379 | Cite as

Sequential analysis of aggressive interactions in the stalk-eyed fly Teleopsis dalmanni

Original Paper


Understanding the mechanisms and determinants of conflict resolution is of great theoretical and practical importance because the outcome of contests between males over limited resources such as mates, territories, and food has profound fitness consequences. Despite the large literature on the theory of conflict resolution, relatively few empirical studies explicitly test predictions related to contest structure for these models. In sexually dimorphic species of stalk-eyed flies (Diopsidae), males engage in characteristic aggressive interactions over both females and food resources. We used sequential analysis of aggressive interactions between dyads of male stalk-eyed flies to investigate patterns of escalation, behavioral matching, and physical contact in order to distinguish between three common models of conflict resolution: the sequential assessment model, the cumulative assessment model, and the energetic war of attrition. Stalk-eyed flies were shown to engage in both low- and high-intensity behaviors during interactions with patterns of escalation and no de-escalation. Aggressive interactions did not demonstrate behavioral matching between winners and losers. Stalk-eyed flies also escalated to behaviors that included physical contact without injuries. Our results provide support for the sequential assessment model based on patterns of escalation with no de-escalation, behavioral mismatching, and behaviors which include physical contact but no injuries.


Conflict resolution Assessment Aggression Stalk-eyed fly Sequential analysis 



We thank Sarah Magdanz and Kassidy Boyd for stalk-eyed fly care and maintenance and Amy Worthington for helping formulate the approach using sequential analysis for stalk-eyed flies and for comments throughout the writing process. Thank you to Jerry Wilkinson for providing pupae for our own colonies of flies and Sol Redlin for construction of the arenas where the interactions took place. We acknowledge Jerry Husak and Jake Kerby for comments and critiques on the many drafts of the manuscript. This research was conducted with support from a National Science Foundation CAREER award IOB-0448060 to John Swallow and grants to Yoni Brandt and John Swallow from The Center for Biomedical Research Excellence at the University of South Dakota and from the South Dakota National Aeronautics and Space Administration Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

Ethical standards

The work in this study was carried out with the highest ethical standards according to the laws of the country in which the work was performed.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

265_2010_1054_MOESM1_ESM.doc (42 kb)
Supplemental Table 1 Matrix of behaviors from the overall analysis of aggressive behaviors of stalk-eyed flies. Behaviors on the left are the preceding behavior in transition followed by the behavior listed at the top. For example, away is followed by line up eye stalks 122 times. Bolded numbers indicate significant transitions that occurred over 10% of the time (DOC 42 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison R. Egge
    • 1
  • Yoni Brandt
    • 1
  • John G. Swallow
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyThe University of South DakotaVermillionUSA

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