We tested predictions of evolutionary game theory focusing on fight duration and intensity during contests between European fallow deer, Dama dama L. We examined the relation between contest duration and intensity and resource-holding potential (RHP; body weight and antler size), in an effort to reveal the assessment rules used by competing males. We examined other potential determinants of duration and intensity: resource value (the oestrous female) and experience of agonistic interactions. Asymmetry in body weight or antler length of contestants was not correlated with fight duration. Body weight and antler length of the fight winner or loser were also not correlated with fight duration. Neither were the body weight of the heavier or lighter animal or the antler length of the animal that had longer or shorter antlers. A measure of intensity (the jump clash) was positively related to the body weight of the losing animal and the lighter member of the dyad. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that opponents escalate contest intensity based on assessment of their own ability rather than through mutual assessment. There was no evidence that resource value is an important factor in either fight duration or intensity in this population. As the number of fights between pairs of males increased, there was a decrease in fight duration. Fights were longer when at least one member of a competing pair of males had previously experienced a victory.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology