The influence of experience on contest assessment strategies

Irene Camerlink, Simon P. Turner, Marianne Farish, Gareth Arnott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
151 Downloads (Pure)


Animal contest behaviour has been widely studied, yet major knowledge gaps remain concerning the information-gathering and decision-making processes used during encounters. The mutual assessment strategy, where the individual assesses its own fighting ability (Resource Holding Potential, RHP)and compares it to that of its opponent, is least understood. We hypothesise that individuals need experience of agonistic encounters to become proficient at mutual assessment. Pigs (Sus scrofa,n=316) were contested twice. In between contests, animals did or did not (control) receive intense fighting experience. A substantial proportion of the contests reached an outcome with a clear winner without fighting. Non-escalation was highest in RHP asymmetric dyads of the second contest,irrespective of experience. In contest 1 (no experience) and in contest 2 for the experienced animals,costs increased with loser RHP and where unaffected by winner RHP, suggesting a self-assessment strategy. In contest 2 control dyads, which only had experience of one prior contest, a negative relation between winner RHP and costs suggested mutual assessment during the pre-escalation phase but not during escalated aggression. This reveals that a brief and relatively mild experience can be beneficial in the development of mutual assessment whereas profound experience may result in adoption of a self assessment strategy
Original languageEnglish
Article number14492
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 03 Nov 2017


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