8.4 Wednesday, Jan. 4 Contest behavior is mediated by resource payoff value in female convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata). COTRONE, M.C.*; EARLEY, R.L.; DRAUD, M.; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Long Island University - C.W. Post, Brookville, NY email@example.com
Contest behavior has evolved in animals as a means of acquiring and retaining fitness-related resources. Historically, contest behavior has been studied primarily in males but, in some systems such as the convict cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata), both males and females compete vigorously for limiting resources. It is therefore important to investigate the rules of engagement employed by females. The sequential assessment model (SAM) predicts that contestants gather information about their opponent’s resource holding power (RHP) and use that information to decide whether to flee or persist in a contest. Male contests show evidence of SAM, but there is evidence that female contests are structured differently. This study examines the mechanics of female contests and the role of resource payoff value (RPV) in contests. We show that females do not strictly follow the rules of SAM, but do show signs of assessment when RPV is low. By changing the reproductive state (RS) of female convict cichlids, RPV can be increased or decreased. Consequently, contests between females with high RPV had higher rates of escalated behavior and were more likely to end in draws than low RPV contests. However, RPV asymmetries did not predict contest outcome in females. The results suggest that RPV plays an important role in the structure of female contests and may influence the strategy used by contestants.