Social aggression in an age-dependent dominance hierarchy

Behaviour
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Abstract

Social aggression arises from conflicts of interest over reproduction in animal societies. Aggression is often highly variable between individuals in a group, may be correlated with dominance, and is often integral to the establishment of dominance hierarchies that in turn determine reproductive opportunities. However, reproductive dominance is not always linked with social dominance: 'queens' are not always the most aggressive individuals in a group. Furthermore, in some animals social rank is determined without aggression, and derived through another means, such as gerontocracy. In such instances, what is the role of aggression, and what underlies the variation between individuals? Here, we investigate the relationship between inheritance rank and aggression in the hover wasp Liostenogaster flavolineata, which has an age-based inheritance queue. All females in this study were of known age and, thus, rank could be determined independently of behaviour. Observations of intra-colony aggression indicated that aggression increased with inheritance rank and occurred among non-breeding subordinates. This cannot be explained by models that do not account for aggression between non-breeders. It is likely that contests over inheritance rank and the higher future fitness anticipated by high-ranking individuals account for this pattern.

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