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Is there a role for aggression in round goby invasion fronts?

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The role of aggression as a factor promoting invasiveness remains hotly debated. Increased aggression or a lack of tolerance for conspecifics may promote population spread. Some previous research suggests that more aggressive or bold individuals are increasingly likely to disperse and as such these individuals may be overrepresented at the invasion front. In contrast, it has also been argued that individuals at the invasion front represent the least aggressive or least competitive individuals in the population, as these animals are excluded from established areas. Accordingly, the invasion front should be made up of shy, submissive individuals that exhibit reduced aggression. In this study we explore these alternative predictions by quantifying the levels of intra-specific aggression in the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), an invasive fish that continues to spread rapidly through the Laurentian Great Lakes region in North America. We collected size matched male round goby from an invasion front as well as from an area with an established population, and we staged resource contests between them. Invasion front fish won 65% of the contests and tended to perform more aggressive acts overall. Invasion front fish were not more active or bold prior to the contest, and used the same types of aggressive displays as fish from established areas. Our results also showed that body size asymmetry was an overriding determinant of competitive outcomes, and that body size rather than individual variation in aggressiveness might be the most important contributing factor determining the composition of round goby invasion fronts throughout the Laurentian Great Lakes and its tributaries.

Affiliations: 1: aAquatic Behavioural Ecology Laboratory, Department of Psychology Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 2: dEnvironmental Life Sciences, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada; 3: eEnvironmental & Resource Studies Program and Department of Biology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada

10.1163/1568539X-00002998
/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00002998
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2012-01-01
2016-12-02

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