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A New Theory of Mammalian Rump Patch Evolution

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Evidence from a number of sources indicates that the rump patch has evolved as an organ that supports subordination behavior. It originated as an expansion of the colors of the ano-genital region to remotivate the aggressor into a sexual mood. By this evolutionary route, it takes on appeasement qualities and is used by males to males and females to females as well as between sexes. Like the specialized organs of aggression concentrated at the anterior end, it has evolved similar forms independently in a number of different lines, and sometimes varies in expression throughout the year. The evolution of rump patches has been a comprise between its value to the individual in communicating submission and the other behavioral aspects within the species and also with the selection pressures originating outside the species that affect survival (such as protective coloration). The rump patch has been selected for because it gives a more positive signal of submission than a behavioral gesture used alone. As a secondary development it may also function as a warning signal or in reproductive isolation of sympatric species but these and the other uses that are made of it do not appear to be the major selection pressure responsible for its origin.

Affiliations: 1: Bio Sciences, University of Alaska College, Alaska, U.S.A.

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