Fighting rules and rival recognition reduce costs of aggression in male lizards, Podarcis hispanica
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The establishment of fighting rules and the ability to recognise individual conspecifics and to assess their fighting ability and/or roles may help to reduce costs of fighting. We staged encounters between males of the lizard Podarcis hispanica to examine whether lizards used fighting strategies and whether a previous agonistic experience affects the outcome and characteristics of a subsequent encounter. The results showed that simple rules such as body size differences and residence condition were used to determine the outcome of agonistic interactions as quickly as possible. Thus, larger males were dominant in most encounters. However, when size differences between opponents are smaller, they may be more difficult to estimate and, then, residence condition was more important. In addition, the intensity of interactions between males could be explained according to the ”sequential assessment game”, supporting the idea that P. hispanica males acquire information about fighting ability gradually during the progress of a fight. Our results also showed that the second fight of the same pair of males was less aggressive, even when its outcome was the opposite of the first. This result suggests that male P. hispanica can recognise individual opponents and that they use this information to reach a contest outcome more quickly, thus reducing unnecessary aggression levels in subsequent interactions. These fighting strategies and assessment mechanisms may help to stabilise the social system of this lizard.
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