Demonstration of Strength and Concealment of Weakness in Escalating Fights of Male Swordtails (Xiphophorus helleri)

Authors

  • Alexander Ribowski,

    1. Zoologisches Institut und Zoologisches Museum der Universität, Arbeitsbereich Ethologie, Hamburg
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      Ribowski, A. & Franck, D. 1993: Demonstration of strength and concealment of weakness in escalating fights of male swordtails (Xiphophorus hellers). Ethology 93, 265–274.

  • Dierk Franck

    Corresponding author
    1. Zoologisches Institut und Zoologisches Museum der Universität, Arbeitsbereich Ethologie, Hamburg
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      Ribowski, A. & Franck, D. 1993: Demonstration of strength and concealment of weakness in escalating fights of male swordtails (Xiphophorus hellers). Ethology 93, 265–274.


Zoologisches Institut und Zoologisches Museum der Universität, Arbeitsbereich Ethologie, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3, W-2000 Hamburg 13, F.R. Germany.

Abstract

In the green swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri) confrontations between strange males regularly escalate to high levels of mutual Bites and Fin Grips, even between males differing greatly in size. The original expectation of early game theory models that the behaviours of the ultimate winners and losers are indistinguishable until shortly before the end of the fight could not be confirmed. A significant characteristic of loser behaviour is that the Biting rates are higher before and after escalation. Conversely, Fin Grips are more frequent in the ultimate winners than the losers. However, such behavioural differences are very poor predictors of the outcome of the fight from the viewpoint of a single fighting individual during the contest. Correct forecasts did not exceed 67%. The escalating fights of swordtails are considered as trials of strength in which the stronger male tries to demonstrate strength by the most costly behaviour pattern available, namely Fin Grips, and the weaker male conceals weakness quite successfully by countering with the same tactic and suppressing signs of weakness such as Avoidance behaviour.

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