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Abstract

Male field crickets frequently engage in agonistic contests to establish dominance in social interactions and gain access to mate attraction territories. Crickets (Orthoptera: Gryllidae) are often used as a model taxon to study aggression, but limited documentation of aggression in some cricket species hinders our understanding of its evolutionary costs and benefits. Our study investigated cricket aggression at two scales: the within-species scale for two cricket species, Gryllus assimilis and G. veletis, whose aggression had not been adequately documented and the among-species scale to detect evolutionary patterns in species’ levels of aggression. In both G. veletis and G. assimilis, winners spent more time being aggressive than losers, but they were not larger or heavier. Collectively, our results reveal that G. veletis males are more aggressive than G. assimilis. Male G. veletis had higher aggression scores that male G. assimilis. The majority of G. veletis contests escalated to grappling (a highly aggressive behavior), while less than one quarter of G. assimilis contests escalated to grappling. Further, G. veletis males transitioned between two of the most aggressive behaviors most often while G. assimilis transitioned between two of the least aggressive behaviors most often. We integrate this new information on aggression for G. assimilis and G. veletis with previously documented aggression data for many cricket species to investigate aggression in a broader evolutionary context than previously possible. Within a phylogenetic context, we test the hypothesis that species whose males use burrows from which to call and attract females are more aggressive than species with non-burrowing males. We found evidence consistent with this hypothesis; species with burrowing males tended to be more aggressive than species with non-burrowing males. Together, our study provides fine-scale understanding of aggression in two cricket species and broad-scale evolutionary context for aggression across cricket species.