Of crabs and men
  • Devonport Lecture Theatre, Portland Square Building, Plymouth University

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This inaugural lecture will be given by Mark Briffa, Professor of Animal Behaviour.

Animals must compete with other members of the same species over ownership of limited resources such as food, shelter, territory and mates. 

The resulting animal contests involve a range of aggressive behaviours from displays of strength through to outright fighting. Given its near ubiquity in the animal kingdom, the evolution of aggressive behaviour has been the subject of intense research interest, with a particular focus on an evolutionary puzzle at the heart of the topic: If Natural Selection produces selfish individuals, why do they typically show restraint during fights? Rather than fights being resolved through fatalities or serious injury, in most examples we see ritualised contests that allow losers to end the contest by deciding to give up. 

Mark's research group tests hypotheses about this giving up decision, focusing on the roles of assessment, motivation and energetic costs, and drawing on ideas from the related areas of animal communication and animal personality research. Mark will review their work on non-injurious fighting in hermit crabs and fights that can involve injuries in sea anemones and red wood ants. 

As well as looking at the evolution of fighting Mark will also consider how the way we study fights has ‘evolved’: Many of the ideas used to study animal contests are actually based on concepts from human behaviour, so can studies of aggression in other animals tell us anything about aggression in humans?

The lecture starts at 17:00 and light refreshments will be available afterwards. The event is open to all - to book a place, please email paula.simson@plymouth.ac.uk

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