The degree of potential damage in agonistic contests and its effects on social aggression, territoriality and display evolution
The potential for animals to inflict damage on one another whilst competing for indivisible resources is a factor of crucial importance when determining pay-offs to such animals and consequent likelihood of adopting an aggressive resource procurement strategy, a less costly display-based alternative or just a retreat response. Using computer simulations of evolving agents, we assessed the effects of degree of damage potential on social aggression and resource procuring strategies. Furthermore, we assessed the effects of evolving ritualized displays used in contests over resources relative to damage potential. Our results showed that aggressive interactions increased in frequency when the degree of damage potential was low. Ritualized displays tended to reduce aggressive approaches and mortality rate where damage potential was high and low but this was not the case at the intermediate level where aggression and mortality rate increased.