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Perceived predation risk and mate defense jointly alter the outcome of territorial fights

Abstract

Virtually all animal conflicts occur over access to mates or resources that affect survival, the two key components of fitness. In this paper, we report that predation risk and mate defense jointly affect the outcomes of contests between male sand crabs (Scopimera globosa) for burrows in which crabs mate and take shelter from predators. We observed the contests under three different conditions: (1) the natural condition of low predation risk and without the presence of a female; (2) the first experiment in which we imposed upon only intruding males the perception of predation risk—by digging them from their burrows, capturing and handling them, and placing them into other males’ burrows—to increase the value of the burrows for the intruders as shelter, and (3) the second experiment in which we repeated this treatment but increased the resource value of the burrow to the resident by placing a female in his burrow. The difference in body size between contestants was the main determinant of victory in all analyses. However, perceived predation risk also partly affected the outcomes of the fights: The motivated intruders were likely to win even when they were a little smaller than the residents. In addition, defense of a female had a significant effect on the outcomes of fights: The motivated residents won more fights than the motivated intruders, indicating that these two treatments caused asymmetric increases of the resource value. This is the first report of two external factors simultaneously raising resource value, affecting motivation of contestants, and altering the outcome of fights.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Patricia Backwell, Michael Jennions, and John Christy for assistance with editing and correction of the English. Kenji Yoshino and Yoiti Yusa helped with some of the statistics. Kenji Yoshino also gave suggestions for literature references and composed the figure. Many valuable comments by the associate editor and two reviewers greatly improved the final version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Tsunenori Koga.

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Communicated by M. Jennions

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Koga, T., Ikeda, S. Perceived predation risk and mate defense jointly alter the outcome of territorial fights. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 64, 827–833 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-009-0899-y

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Keywords

  • Contests
  • Fights
  • Resource value
  • Motivation
  • Perceived predation risk
  • Mate acquisition