Territorial aggression can be sensitive to the status of heterospecific intruders

Topi K Lehtonen, Jeffrey K McCrary, Axel Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Territorial animals are known to be able to differentiate between intruding individuals posing a low or high threat and adjust their aggressive response accordingly. However, plastic territorial aggression based on recognising individuals with different attributes is typically assumed to be relevant only in the context of conspecific interactions. In this study, we investigated territorial aggression of neotropical cichlid fish in their natural habitat to assess whether responses to different types of individuals of another species can also be plastic. We show that arrow cichlids (Amphilophus zaliosus) adjusted their territorial aggression regarding the status of heterospecific intruders: breeding individuals of Amphilophus astorquii received a lower level of aggression than non-breeders. The same pattern was also found for the two different types of A. astorquii individuals intruding into conspecific territories. These results suggest that heterospecific individuals should not be ignored when considering selection pressures shaping plasticity of aggressive behaviour in territorial animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598 - 601
Number of pages4
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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