Limited evidence that visual lateralization is associated with fitness in rutting male fallow deer

Dómhnall J. Jennings*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Under certain models of animal competition, individuals are expected to gather information about opponent quality in order to determine whether they should fight or withdraw. However, the ability to process complex information differs between individuals and across brain hemispheres: a feature of vertebrate cognition known as lateralization that is not anticipated by contest models. I investigated the relationship between aggressive behaviour and mating success during the fallow deer, Dama dama, rut and a measure of lateralization derived from eye preference during parallel walking. Results show that there was no relationship between the tendency to escalate to fighting or predictability in the tendency to engage in fighting and lateralization. Conversely, there was a quadratic relationship between third-party intervention behaviour and lateralization: the greater the tendency to intervene in ongoing fights the lower the degree of lateralization. However, individuals that showed lateralization for right-eye use were least likely to be targeted by the intervening male; thus lateralization is beneficial in this context because targeted males are highly likely to lose this subsequent encounter. The relationship between lateralization and mating success was also nonlinear: males that showed little evidence for an eye bias during lateral displays had the greatest mating success. Taken together, individuals that showed lateralization benefited from avoiding being targeted after third-party intervention; conversely, individuals that showed little evidence for lateralization actively intervened during ongoing fights and had higher mating success. These results suggest that, although lateralization does appear to confer a fitness advantage on individuals, this is not as extensive as anticipated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-91
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Contest behaviour
  • Dama dama
  • Fallow deer
  • Lateral display
  • Lateralization
  • Mating success
  • Third-party intervention behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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