Gender differences in aggressive behaviour in convict cichlids

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39 Citations (Scopus)


Males and females of many species engage in agonistic encounters. However, differing selection pressures on each sex are predicted to result in sex differences in aggressive behaviour during contests. Comparing male and female intrasexual contests can yield intriguing differences, shedding light on the forces shaping the use of particular aggressive tactics. We investigated whether fundamental gender-related differences in aggression, not explained by current parental role, are present in convict cichlids, Amatitlania nigrofasciata. Intrasexual agonistic encounters between isolated males and between isolated females not previously paired to a breeding partner were staged. Using this approach we first tested for behavioural differences between the sexes. Second, using a novel startle technique aimed at probing motivation to fight, we tested for gender-related differences in aggressive motivation. Third, we examined whether size, rather than gender, plays a role in determining the tactics used during contests. In addressing these aims we found: (1) females used more frontal display and biting, and spent more time in close proximity to their opponent, whereas males used more lateral display and tail beating than females during agonistic encounters; (2) there was no difference in the response of male or female convict cichlids to a startling stimulus aimed at probing motivation to fight; and (3) the addition of focal weight and length as possible covariates had no significant effect on the analyses. Possible causal and functional reasons for these gender-related differences in fight tactics are discussed. (C) 2009 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1221-1227
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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