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Varanid combat: perspectives from game theory

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

Most data on aggressive encounters in varanid lizards are qualitative and often anecdotal. The few quantitative reports have not explicitly tested the predictions generated by game theoretical models of animal combat despite their apparent relevance. The goal of this paper was to investigate whether the patterns evident in varanid contests conform to the predictions of the sequential assessment game with special emphasis on the organization, duration, and outcome of the encounters. Several characteristics of monitor combat are consistent with the sequential assessment game. For instance, contests are organized into distinct phases, displays are repeated within each phase, and asymmetries play a crucial role in determining contest duration and outcome. However, data pertaining to a number of the sequential assessment game's most critical postulations are absent from the current varanid literature (e.g. the consistency of display intensity within each phase). As more quantitative data emerge, the applicability of the sequential assessment game to varanid contests may be better assessed.


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