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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Sean Twiss

Bishop, A.M., Pomeroy, P. & Twiss, S.D. (2015). Variability in individual rates of aggression in wild gray seals: fine-scale analysis reveals importance of social and spatial stability. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69(10): 1663-1675.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Aggressive interactions are costly for individuals in time, energy, or physical damage, and in polygynous mating systems, there is high variability in the rates and intensity of aggression across individuals and within breeding seasons. However, examinations into the drivers of this variability are often conducted in isolation, in non-wild systems, or the predictor variables in question, for example, dominance, are averaged across large spatial, social, or temporal scales. The aim of this study was to adopt a fine spatial and temporal scale approach to investigate the factors associated with inter-individual variation in aggression in wild, breeding male gray seals within three consecutive breeding seasons. To do this, we fit models examining if the daily frequency of aggression and probability of escalated aggression for males was best explained by factors such as dominance score, proximity to competitors or females, local social stability, and the occurrence of stochastic environmental events. Stability of neighbor identities was the strongest correlate of reduced male aggression. Dominance status did not correlate with aggression at the daily scale, with the exception of one period after a natural disturbance to the breeding colony where dominant males had relatively reduced rates of aggression. These findings emphasize the importance of local social stability in explaining inter-individual variation in aggression in a wild population and suggest that factors associated with aggression are context dependent in relation to the natural environment. Furthermore, we highlight the utility of a fine temporal scale and incorporating spatial parameters when investigating variability in aggression in wild systems.