Interspecific aggression and behavioural domination among four sympatric species of shrews

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Level of interspecific aggressiveness should reflect intensity of interference competition, and large-dominant and small-subordinate species should evolve aggressive and passive agonistic behaviours, respectively, to achieve stable co-existence. We tested these ideas investigating interspecific behavioural dominance in a four-species community of shrews differing in body size (Sorex minutus Linnaeus, 1766; Sorex araneus Linnaeus, 1758; Neomys anomalus Cabrera, 1907; Neomys fodiens (Pennant, 1771)), by placing interspecific pairs in a neutral field. The order of dominance (determined on the basis of duration of offensive and defensive behaviours, total time spent in the shelter, and ‘final shelter resident’ index) corresponded to the order of body size: N. fodiens > N. anomalus > S. araneus > S. minutus. The highest number of conflicts and least pronounced dominance of N. anomalus over S. araneus suggest the strongest interference competition between these species. The different social organization of N. anomalus (tolerant and gregarious versus intolerant and solitary in the other three species) did not decrease its aggressiveness and dominance rank. The larger Neomys species were more aggressive and initiated relatively more offensive behaviours, whereas the smaller Sorex species initiated more defensive behaviours. The presence of food and shelter did not intensify conflicts. Nevertheless, dominating species restricted the access of subordinate species to the shelter.




aggression, behavioural dominance, interference competition, shrews, social behaviour, stable co-existence, territoriality


Canadian Journal of Zoology vol. 84 (3), 2006, pp. 434-448.



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego