In animals that use aggressive behaviour to establish dominance hierarchies, agonistic behaviour between conspecifics is an important determinant of fitness. Intraspecific aggression commonly occurs when resources (e.g. shelter, food, mates) are unequally distributed in the environment so that dominance over an opponent will result in an immediate benefit for the winner. Success in agonistic encounters depends on intrinsic factors associated with physical and physiological performance, and extrinsic social experience.
We use crayfish as a model organism to test hypotheses about the mechanisms that lead to success in social hierarchies. For example, in Cherax destructor acclimation temperature significantly influences the outcomes of fights (Fig. 1, left panel), and the respiratory control ratio of chelae muscles at least partly explains the differences in the scores (Fig. 1, right panel).
Seebacher, F., Wilson, R. S. 2007. Individual recognition in crayfish (Cherax dispar): the roles of strength and experience in deciding aggressive encounters. Biology Letters 3, 471-474.
Wilson, R. S., Angilletta, M. J., James, R. S., Navas C., Seebacher, F. 2007. Dishonest signals of strength in male slender crayfish (Cherax dispar) during agonistic encounters. American Naturalist 170, 284-292.
Seebacher, F., and Wilson, R. S. 2006. Fighting fit: thermal plasticity of metabolic function and fighting success in the crayfish Cherax destructor. Functional Ecology 20, 1045-1053.