Dramatic fighting by male cuttlefish for a female mate
Allen, Justine J.
Schnell, Alexandra K.
Hanlon, Roger T.
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KeywordSepia officinalis; Agonistic; Cephalopod; Behavior; Sexual selection; Evolutionary game theory
Male cuttlefish compete for females with a repertoire of visually dramatic behaviors. Laboratory experiments have explored this system in Sepia officinalis, but corroborative field data have eluded collection attempts by many researchers. While scuba diving in Turkey, we fortuitously filmed an intense sequence of consort/intruder behaviors in which the consort lost and then regained his female mate from the intruder. These agonistic bouts escalated in stages, leading to fast dramatic expression of the elaborate intense zebra display and culminating in biting and inking as the intruder male attempted a forced copulation of the female. When analyzed in the context of game theory, the patterns of fighting behavior were more consistent with mutual assessment than self-assessment of fighting ability. Additional observations of these behaviors in nature are needed to conclusively determine which models best represent conflict resolution, but our field observations agree with laboratory findings and provide a valuable perspective.
Author Posting. © University of Chicago Press, 2017. This article is posted here by permission of University of Chicago Press for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in The American Naturalist 190 (2017): 144-151, doi:10.1086/692009.