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Conflict Outcome in Male Green Swordtail Fish Dyads (Xiphophorus Helleri): Interaction of Body Size, Prior Dominance/Subordination Experience, and Prior Residency

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The relative contribution of asymmetries in prior experience, size, and prior residency to the determination of dyadic dominance between unacquainted individuals was examined using pairs of green swordtail fish, Xiphophorus helleri. Four types of encounters were staged between an intruder and a smaller resident: (1) both had experienced prior vicctory; (2) both had experienced prior defeat; (3) the intruder had experienced prior victory and the resident prior defeat; and (4) the intruder had experienced prior defeat and the resident prior victory. In a fifth condition in which two intruders met, one was a prior subordinate and the other a prior dominant smaller in size than its opponent. In all these encounters, the superiority in lateral surface of one fish varied between 0 to 30% over that of its opponent. Results showed that (1) when size differences between contestants were within the range of 0-10% and there was an asymmetry in prior social experience, conflicts were essentially resolved according to prior experience with prior winners systematically defeating prior losers; (2) prior residency of 3 h was an advantage only when both opponents had experienced prior defeat before meeting and when size asymmetries were small (e.g. < 20%). It was not an advantage between prior winners or between a prior winner and a prior loser; (3) when large size asymmetries existed (e.g. 20-30%), size uniquely determined dominance outcome and nullified other advantages or disadvantages due to prior social experience and prior residency; and (4) at intermediate levels of size asymmetries (e.g. 10-20%), size partially cancelled any advantage due to a prior victory, and gradually became paramount in accounting for victories.

Affiliations: 1: Unité d'Éthométrie, Département de Psychologie de l'Université du Québec à Montréal, CP 8888, Station 'Centre Ville', Montréal, Québec H3C 3P8, Canada


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