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Willingness to initiate a fight but not contest behaviour depends on intruder size in Lethrus apterus (Geotrupidae)

Rosa, Márta E., Barta, Zoltán, Kosztolányi, András
Behavioural processes 2018 v.149 pp. 65-71
Geotrupidae, breeding, burrows, field experimentation, males, prediction
In resident-intruder contests, residents are expected to win more often than intruders unless the intruder has significantly higher competitive ability that is often determined by its size. Therefore, small intruders are expected to be less motivated to engage in contests than large ones and intruder size is predicted to have a positive relationship with the duration and escalation of the encounters. In a field experiment we tested these hypotheses in Lethrus apterus, a biparental beetle breeding in underground tunnels, by placing either a small or a large male in front of a tunnel occupied by a resident male. In agreement with our predictions residents won most of the encounters. Small intruders were less willing to engage in a contest and were less successful in their takeover attempts than large intruders. Contrary to many studies however, the duration and escalation (measured by the occurrence and latency of the different contest stages) of the fight in front of the burrow did not differ between the two intruder size categories. These findings suggest that in this species, small and large intruders adjust their prior decisions to their competitive abilities but once a fight started, they behave similarly during the contest.