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Hawk-Like Aggression in the Hawaiian Red Lobster, Enoplometopus Occidentalis

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image of Behaviour

Based upon current game theory and previously established biological criteria we attempted to empirically demonstrate the existence of a species that displays hawk-like levels of aggression. To do this we studied aggression in the Hawaiian red lobster, Enoplometopus occidentalis. Twelve mated pairs of lobsters were tested, using four pairs per trial. Results suggest that these lobsters display hawk-like aggression. While intersexual and intrasexual encounters were equally likely to occur, aggression was restricted to intrasexual encounters with males and females displaying the same high levels of aggression. Assessment of encounters based upon size, home tank, and damage inflicted indicated that damage inflicted was the only reliable indicator of winning, and 83.3% of all lobsters suffered damage by the end of the experiment. Even after damage was inflicted and individuals retreated, 'winners' continued to pursue, indicating a lack of submissive behaviours. The behavioural interactions between unmated males and females indicated that this species does not display mate choice. Finally, the results indicate that cheliped-to-cheliped contact is important, if not obligate, for sexual recognition.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Hawaii, Department of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA;, Email:; 2: Department of Biology, University of Hawaii


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