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Agonistic Behavior

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Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior


Aggression; Agonism; Dominance


Agonistic behavior is any social interaction or engagement, which involves threatening behavior, aggression, fighting, or submission.


Agonistic behavior is commonplace across the animal kingdom. It can be described as a suite of social behaviors related to any form of aggressive or fighting actions, which occur between two or more individuals of the same species and therefore exclude predator-prey interactions. Agonistic behaviors play an important role in shaping both an individual’s life history in solitary species and group structure in gregarious animals. These behaviors can be categorized into three main components: threat, aggression, and submission. All three are interrelated and can occur in combination or alone. The most common agonistic behaviors occur over access to a certain resource, such as food, shelter, and territory, or access to a mating partner. These agonistic behaviors can range from very mild, such as...

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Young, C. (2019). Agonistic Behavior. In: Vonk, J., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham.

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