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Abstract

Males defending territories often settle into adjacent areas, sharing a common border that is maintained by a reduced level of aggression known as dear enemy recognition. While social conditions may affect the dear enemy relationship among males, what role females play, if any, is unclear. In a field study of the highly promiscuous Leon Springs pupfish, Cyprinodon bovinus, we asked whether females influenced this relationship of neighbors to their advantage. We observed 16 territorial residents, mapping the precise location of each male's behaviors within its territory. Resident males engaged in less aggression against neighbors compared with intruders, and neighbors intruded less deeply into the residents’ territories than intruders. Despite this locality restriction, neighbors were responsible for as many spawning interruptions as intruders. Females did not spawn randomly in the males’ territories, nor did they spawn near territory centers where aggression was low. Rather, females were more likely to settle and spawn in the outer half of the territories where competition among males was highest. When a neighbor entered a resident's territory to interrupt a spawn, the female was more likely to leave the resident's territory for the neighbor's than to remain. These observations suggest that the female used the intrusion by the neighbor to engage the resident and interrupt the spawn as a measure of this male's quality and that, while neighboring males benefit from the presence of dear enemy recognition, females benefit from its disruption.