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Sex-Specific Aggression and Antipredator Behaviour in Young Brown Trout


Jörgen I. Johnsson, Department of Zoology, Göteborg University, Box 463, SE–405 30 Göteborg, Sweden. E-mail:


Sex differences in adult behaviour are often interpreted as consequences of sexual selection and/or different reproductive roles in males and females. Sex-specific juvenile behaviour, however, has received less attention. Adult brown trout males are more aggressive than females during spawning and juvenile aggression may be genetically correlated with adult aggression in fish. We therefore tested the prediction that immature brown trout males are more aggressive and bolder than immature females. Because previous work has suggested that precocious maturation increases dominance in salmonids, we included precocious males in the study to test the prediction that early sexual maturation increase male aggression and boldness. Aggression and dominance relations were estimated in dyadic contests, whereas boldness was measured as a response to simulated predation risk using a model heron. Independent of maturity state, males initiated more than twice as many agonistic interactions as females in intersexual contests. However, males were not significantly more likely to win these contests than females. The response to a first predator attack did not differ between sex categories, but males reacted less to a second predator attack than females. Sexual maturity did not affect the antipredator response in males. Since there is no evidence from field studies that stream-living immature male and female salmonids differ in growth rate, it appears unlikely that the sex differences demonstrated are behavioural consequences of sex-specific investment in growth. It seems more likely that sex-specific behaviour arises as a correlated response to sexually selected gene actions promoting differential behaviour in adult males and females during reproduction. Alternatively, sex differences may develop gradually during juvenile life, because a gradual developmental program should be less costly than a sudden behavioural change at the onset of sexual maturity.