Territorial study organism
Mr Stephen Heap
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A suitable Australian territorial species for the purpose of studying territorial behaviour
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Developers / Researchers:
I am looking for a suitable model animal to use in an investigation of the behaviours expressed during the formation of territories.
- Individual territories are contiguous. That is, each territory borders another territory.
- Territories are 'compressible'. In other words, the size and shape of the territory should respond to pressure exerted by neighbouring individuals by becoming smaller. This criterion is best expressed as the 'elastic-disc' behaviour of a territory put forward by Huxley (1934).
- Territories are formed from scratch. For instance, many species of migratory birds, juvenile lizards or fish settle in an area that is unoccupied by conspecifics and begin utilising the space (Stamps and Krishnan, 1990). Territories form as a result of aggressive behaviour excluding the other settlers from using the space. This criterion invalidates other territorial species, such as non-migratory birds, which often have territories that persist through generations (Russell & Rowley, 2000).
- Existing literature or field experience concerning the territorial and/or aganostic behaviours of the species. This would allow me to jump straight into investigating the questions that I am interested in rather than spending time working on the natural history of the species.
- Available in Australia.
- Easily used and maintained in a lab environment.
- Easy to observe in the field. For example, small individual territories would enable a settlement group to be studied more easily than individuals with territories that span for hundreds of metres or more.
Examples of suitable species include Anolis lizards (Stamps & Krishnan, 1995) and the three-spined stickleback fish (van den Assem, 1967). However, these species are not easily available to me in my present location.
Any suggestions for a suitable species would be greatly appreciated.
- Huxley (1934) A natural experiment on the territorial instinct. British Birds 27, 270-277
- Russell and Rowley (2000) Demography and social organisation of the red-winged fairy-wren, Malurus elegans. Australian Journal of Zoology 48(2), 161-200
- Stamps and Krishnan (1990) The effect of settlement tactics on territory sizes. American Naturalist 135(4), 527-546
- Stamps and Krishnan (1995) Territory acquisition in lizards: III.Competing for space. Animal Behaviour 49(3), 679-693
- van den Assem (1967) Territory in the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus L .: An experimental study in intra-specific competition. Behaviour. Supplement 16, 1-164
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