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Resolving social conflict among females without overt aggression

Resolving social conflict among females without overt aggression

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 368(1631): 20130076

Members of animal societies compete over resources and reproduction, but the extent to which such conflicts of interest are resolved peacefully (without recourse to costly or wasteful acts of aggression) varies widely. Here, we describe two theoretical mechanisms that can help to understand variation in the incidence of overt behavioural conflict: (i) destruction competition and (ii) the use of threats. The two mechanisms make different assumptions about the degree to which competitors are socially sensitive (responsive to real-time changes in the behaviour of their social partners). In each case, we discuss how the model assumptions relate to biological reality and highlight the genetic, ecological and informational factors that are likely to promote peaceful conflict resolution, drawing on empirical examples. We suggest that, relative to males, reproductive conflict among females may be more frequently resolved peacefully through threats of punishment, rather than overt acts of punishment, because (i) offspring are more costly to produce for females and (ii) reproduction is more difficult to conceal. The main need now is for empirical work to test whether the mechanisms described here can indeed explain how social conflict can be resolved without overt aggression.

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Accession: 055523511

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PMID: 24167306

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0076

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