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Temporal dynamics and communication of winner-effects in the crayfish, orconectes rusticus

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image of Behaviour

A variety of factors influences the formation of hierarchical structures, and can include an altered aggressive state, an ability to physically dominate, and previous agonistic experience. Using male Orconectes rusticus, we tested the duration of the winner effect by varying the time between a winning encounter and a subsequent encounter by a 20, 40 or 60-minute interval. Varying the time between the two fights significantly altered the probabilities of initiating fight behaviour and of winning a fight. A crayfish with a 20-minute delay between its winning experience and its subsequent fight was significantly less likely to initiate fight behaviour and significantly more likely to win its next fight than was an animal whose next fight was delayed for 40 or 60 minutes. We then investigated whether the dynamics of this winner effect were influenced by perception of odour signals during agonistic interactions by blocking the chemo- and mechanoreceptors on the antennae and antennules to prevent reception of relevant cues communicating social status. Individuals fighting an opponent with this loss of sensory information were significantly more likely to initiate a fight, but then escalated at a slower rate to a higher fight intensity level. In addition, individuals had a decreased chance of winning an agonistic bout against an opponent deprived of sensory input from the antennae and antennules.


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