How does environment influence fighting? The effects of tidal flow on resource value and fighting costs in sea anemones

Alexandre V. Palaoro, Mariana Velasque, Sandro Santos, Mark Briffa

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13 Citations (Scopus)


An animal's decision to enter into a fight depends on the interaction between perceived resource value (V) and fighting costs (C). Both could be altered by predictable environmental fluctuations. For intertidal marine animals, such as the sea anemone Actinia equina, exposure to high flow during the tidal cycle may increase V by bringing more food. It may also increase C via energy expenditure needed to attach to the substrate. We asked whether simulated tidal cycles would alter decisions in fighting A. equina. We exposed some individuals to still water and others to simulated tidal cycles. To gain insights into V, we measured their startle responses before and after exposure to the treatments, before staging dyadic fights. Individuals exposed to flow present shorter startle responses, suggesting that flowing water indicates high V compared with still water. A higher probability of winning against no-flow individuals and longer contests between flow individuals suggests that increased V increases persistence. However, encounters between flow individuals were less likely to escalate, suggesting that C is not directly related to V. Therefore, predictable environmental cycles alter V and C, but in complex ways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170011
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal contests
  • Contest costs
  • Environmental cues
  • Predictable cycles

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