Dominant aggression as a deterrent signal in paper wasps

Faye J. Thompson, Lynda Donaldson, Rufus A. Johnstone, Jeremy Field, Michael A. Cant
2014 Behavioral Ecology  
Low-level social aggression is a conspicuous feature of cooperative animal societies, but its precise function is usually unclear. One long-standing hypothesis is that aggressive displays by dominant individuals serve to reduce uncertainty about relative strength and deter subordinates from starting fights that they are unlikely to win. However, most formal theoretical models of this idea do not consider how the credibility of deterrent signals might change over time in social groups. We
more » ... ed a simple model of dominant aggression as a deterrent signal, which takes into account how credibility changes over time and how selection should act on receiver memory. We then carried out an experimental test of the predictions of our model on a field population of the paper wasp, Polistes dominulus. The match between our theoretical and empirical results suggests that low-level social aggression can help to maintain the stability and productivity of cooperative associations in this species. Moreover, our work suggests that rates of aggression in animal societies and the robustness of social memories are likely to be intimately related.
doi:10.1093/beheco/aru063 fatcat:fgbmvrocwfdi5fnqv4rzuorkm4