Male solitary animals frequently enter aggressive interactions with conspecific individuals to protect their territory or to gain access to females. After an agonistic encounter, the loser (subordinate individual) changes its behaviour from aggression to avoidance. We investigated agonistic interactions between pairs of male crickets to understand how dominance is established and maintained. Two naïve males readily entered into agonistic interactions. Fights escalated in a stereotyped manner and were concluded with the establishment of dominance. If individuals were isolated after the first encounter and placed together 15 minutes later, subordinate crickets tended to avoid any further contact with the former dominant opponent. Moreover, subordinate males also avoided unfamiliar dominant and naïve opponents. They displayed aggressive behaviour only towards unfamiliar subordinate opponents. This suggests that the subordinate male change their behaviour depending on the dominance status of the opponent. Dominant crickets, in contrast, displayed aggressive behaviour towards familiar as well as unfamiliar opponents. If the interval between the first and second encounter was longer than 30 minutes, the former subordinate male showed aggressive behaviour again. However, if the subordinate cricket was paired with the same opponent three consecutive times within 45 minutes, it avoided the former dominant opponent for up to 6 hours following the third encounter. Our results suggest that the maintenance of dominance in male crickets depends largely on the behavioural change of subordinate individuals. Possible mechanisms to maintain dominance are discussed.
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