European hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus)
Contest behaviour, where animals fight over limited resources, is nearly ubiquitous in animals and a rich body of theory has been developed to explain its evolution. Dr Sarah Lane and Professor Mark Briffa study contests in a variety of systems, including hermit crabs, sea anemones and insects.
Mark has a longstanding interest in how individuals make strategic decisions and the roles of information, repeated signals and the costs of fighting in this process. 
Sarah is interested in the links between weaponry and injuries, and how these can carry over into future contests. 
Together, they have developed the idea of fighting skill, focussing on how the concept can be integrated into contest theory, how it can be measured in real animals and whether the idea can be extended to other situations such as courtship and even human sports. 
Minotaur beetle (Typhaeus

Potential projects

Competitive interactions in minotaur beetles (Dr Sarah Lane)

Key papers

Our key research papers relating to animal contests

  • Lane SM & Briffa M 2023 'The effect of performance capacity and decision-making speed on skilful fighting' Animal Behaviour 199, 95-102 , DOI
  • Lane SM, Cornwell TO & Briffa M 2022 'The angle of attack: rapping technique predicts skill in hermit crab contests' Animal Behaviour 187, 55-61 , DOI Open access
  • Lane SM & Briffa M 2020 'Perceived and actual fighting ability: determinants of success by decision, knockout or submission in human combat sports' Biology Letters 16, (10) 20200443-20200443 , DOI Open access
  • Lane SM & Briffa M 2020 'The role of spatial accuracy and precision in hermit crab contests' Animal Behaviour 167, 111-118 , DOI Open access
  • Briffa M & Lane SM 2017 'The role of skill in animal contests: a neglected component of fighting ability' Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284, (1863) Author Site , DOI Open access