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Making the Decision To Continue the Fight or To Flee

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Males of Haplochromis burtoni have ritualized fights with physical contact and they assess the relative persistence of their opponents by their reactions, following their own behavior patterns. For this the fighter has to know which reactions have a typical winner or loser meaning and thus which reactions could point at more or less persistence. I evaluated the meanings out of a preliminary data sample of 27 fights by calculating information values, with a formula developed, for each reaction in each fighting stage. In general, it seems that Displaying Long, that is, being Rammed for a long time has a typical winner meaning, indicating more persistence. The hypothetical reactions were tested with a second sample. In 20 out of 23 fights the number of typical winner reactions of the winner is greater, up to the last fighting stage. Because this difference is only in the last fighting stage significant, I postulated a "Critical Fighting Stage". The fighter comes into this stage when he feels a little weariness. From this stage on, and not before, his assessment of his opponent should become relevant for him. A fighter with this strategy has three advantages : 1. Each bluff will be ineffective if it does not happen in the "Critical Fighting Stage". Therefore, a fighter should by no means show he is in this stage. 2. A fighter cannot give any information about how long he will fight, because he does not know it himself. 3. He does not know it himself because he adapts his persistence to the fighting of his opponent. ` The results brought the following new aspects to sociobiological hypotheses: 1. A bimodal function of the ESS nearly agreed with the frequency distribution of the duration of 50 fights. I tried to describe the suitable penalty function on the basis of my observations. 2. I found that the assessment improved with the fighting stages. Therefore, the information acquired in each stage is not constant. 3. The concept of the "Critical Fighting Stage" allows for the best adaptation of a fighter's persistence to the fighting of his opponent.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ethology and Wildlife Research, Institute of Zoology, University of Zurich, Switzerland


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