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Influence of females on conflict among wild rats

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Abstract

Ten male wild rats, Rattus norvegicus, trapped as adults, (“residents”) were each kept singly in large cages. During each of four weeks they were exposed daily, on five successive days, for 15 min, to a strange adult male of the same species. In weeks 1 and 3 the residents were alone; in weeks 2 and 4 two adult females were present. A further four males were similarly studied for three weeks; in weeks 1 and 3 females were present, and in week 2 they were absent. All residents except two attacked strange males more when females were present, though the females played no direct part in the encounters. There was evidence of a positive correlation between a ‘threat posture’ and the duration of attack. The theoretical implications of these observations are discussed.

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