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Contests for Space in Breeding Cichlasoma Meeki: the Role of Resource Holding Potential

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1. The agonistic behaviour of Cichlasoma meeki, the firemouth cichlid, was studied to test five predictions concerning Resource Holding Potential (RHP). Game theoretic models predict that animals should settle contests on the basis of asymmetries in RHP, thereby decreasing contest costs. Breeding pairs of fish were observed to determine how they responded to intruders of different status which encroached into their territory. The defended resource was space, either for spawning or for defence of young. 2. Significant differences were found in the behavioural responses to different species, numbers and sizes of intruder. 3. The majority of contests were short, with extended contests only occurring between conspecific pairs. 4. Escalated (contact) behavioural acts were uncommon, occurring only during extended contests and mainly during contests with conspecific pairs. They were performed primarily at the ends of contests or in bouts within contests. 5. The most costly non-contact behavioural acts were usually performed towards pairs, or towards single fish of size equal to or larger than that of the focal animal. 6. In contests with conspecific pairs there were no differences in the responses towards pairs of different sizes except in the type of behavioural acts performed. In such contests relative size was apparently not a sufficient asymmetry, and factors such as resource asymmetry may have been of greater importance.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology and Behavioral Biology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S.A.

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