Information gathering and decision-making during contests between male swordtails, Xiphophorus helleri

John Prenter, Robert W. Elwood

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Animal contests may be settled on the basis of asymmetries in fighting ability (Resource Holding Potential, RHP), resource value and prior ownership. Selection is expected to favour males that make accurate assessments of their chances of winning to reduce the costs of aggression. The presumption of opponent (mutual) assessment in contests has recently been questioned. Rivals can either assess their own RHP relative to their opponent or rely on assessment of own fighting ability (self assessment). We tested the predictions of these alternatives in order to determine the mechanism of assessment underlying decision-making in contests between male swordtail fish (Xiphophorus helleri). We staged dyadic territorial contests between males, from different stock populations, that had been visually isolated (to mediate the effects of experience and socially available information). We examined factors affecting contests outcome and relationships between measures of individual RHP and the cost of contest behaviour to distinguish between alternative assessment hypothesis. Our results support the mutual assessment hypothesis. Predictions of principal game theoretical models were also examined to ascertain which best fits contest behaviour in male swordtails.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventXXX International Ethological Conference Abstracts - Halifax, Novia Scotia, Canada
Duration: 15 Aug 200723 Aug 2007


ConferenceXXX International Ethological Conference Abstracts
CityHalifax, Novia Scotia, Canada

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