Groups of animals consider multiple factors before deciding whether to fight rivals, according to new research involving the University of Plymouth.
Before one-on-one fights, animals are known to make decisions based on factors including the size and strength of the opponent, the outcome of recent fights and the importance of the prize.
But scientists from the universities of Plymouth and Exeter say previous research has often overlooked complexity in group conflicts and assumed that larger groups will always win.
Instead, they say factors like group cohesion and teamwork, the strength of individual members and the location of battle all likely play a part – and animal groups weigh up the situation before fighting.
The research, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, was funded by the Human Frontiers Science Program and the Natural Environment Research Council.