Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 70, Issue 10, pp 1679–1687

Influence of prior contest experience and level of escalation on contest outcome

  • Fonti Kar
  • Martin J. Whiting
  • Daniel W. A. Noble
Original Article

Abstract

An individual’s contest history can have a significant effect on their probability of winning a future contest. These winner–loser effects are likely to be mediated by the level of escalation in a contest, although this is rarely considered in the contest literature. We staged contests between size-matched male water skinks (Eulamprus quoyii) in a tournament design to investigate how prior contest success indirectly affected contest outcome through its effects on contest behavior. Moreover, we predicted that the effect of behavioral traits on contest outcome would depend on the level of escalation reached by contestants (non-escalated versus escalated contests). Contest initiation was the best predictor of contest outcome in both non-escalated and escalated contests, and whether an individual initiated a contest depended on prior contest experience. Prior winners were more likely to initiate subsequent aggressive encounters, and by doing so, initiators had an 88 % probability of winning compared to non-initiators in non-escalated contests. However, this effect was mediated by the level of escalation. Initiators in escalated contests had only a 59 % probability of winning compared to non-initiators. These results suggest that the strength of the effect of prior contest experience on behavioral traits varies across contest stages and is consistent with the hypothesis that prior contest experience alters an individual’s perception of its own fighting ability. Our study highlights the importance of considering the level of contest escalation when examining winner–loser effects in predicting contest outcome.

SIGNIFICANT STATEMENT

Our results show that the effect of prior contest experience on contest initiation varies depending on the level of escalation reached by the contestants. We emphasize the importance of considering the level of contest escalation when examining the influence of prior contest experience on contest outcome.

Keywords

Contest history Lizard Contest initiation Contest escalation Bradley-Terry model Tournament design 

Supplementary material

265_2016_2173_MOESM1_ESM.docx (200 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 200 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fonti Kar
    • 1
  • Martin J. Whiting
    • 1
  • Daniel W. A. Noble
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia

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