In many social species, individuals communally defend resources from conspecific outsiders. Participation in defence and in associated within-group interactions, both during and after contests with outgroup rivals, is expected to vary between group members because the threat presented by different outsiders is not the same to each individual. However, experimental tests examining both the contributions to, and the consequences of, outgroup conflict for all group members are lacking. Using groups of the cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher, we simulated territorial intrusions by different-sized female rivals and altered the potential contribution of subordinate females to defence. Dominant and subordinate females defended significantly more against size- and rank-matched intruders, while males displayed lower and less variable levels of defence. Large and small, but not intermediate-sized, intruders induced increased levels of within-group aggression during intrusions, which was targeted at the subordinate females. Preventing subordinate females from helping in territorial defence led to significant decreases in post-contest within-group and female-specific submissive and affiliative displays. Together, these results show that the defensive contributions of group members vary greatly depending both on their own traits and on intruder identity, and this variation has significant consequences for within-group social dynamics both during and in the aftermath of outgroup contests.
|Date made available