Targets of attack and defense in play? fighting of the Djungarian hamster Phodopus campbelli: Links to fighting and sex

Analysis of the body targets attacked and defended during play? fighting by juvenile Djungarian hamsters Phodopus campbelli revealed that about 70% of all attacks were directed at the mouth. If successfully contacted, the mouth was briefly licked and nuzzled. The remaining playful attacks were gentle bites directed at the rump, and to a lesser extent, the top of the head. During serious fighting the top of the head and the rump are targets of attack, whereas the mouth is not. Licking and nuzzling the mouth was found to be a behavior performed by adult males at the beginning of sexual encounters. Therefore, play ? fighting in juvenile hamsters cannot be thought of merely as a form of “mock fighting ” since the principal target is seemingly sexual, not agonistic. The data also show that of the sexual body targets contacted, adult females are more likely to defend the mouth. In this way it is suggested that targets attacked and defended during juvenile play fighting are derived from adult contexts in which such targets are defended. This hypothesis accounts for the prevalence of agonistic targets in the play fighting of many species, and may provide a rationale for classifying those amicable targets that are competed for during play fighting. Copyright © 1989 Wiley?Liss, Inc., A Wiley Company

Analysis of the body targets attacked and defended during play? fighting by juvenile Djungarian hamsters Phodopus campbelli revealed that about 70% of all attacks were directed at the mouth. If successfully contacted, the mouth was briefly licked and nuzzled. The remaining playful attacks were gentle bites directed at the rump, and to a lesser extent, the top of the head. During serious fighting the top of the head and the rump are targets of attack, whereas the mouth is not. Licking and nuzzling the mouth was found to be a behavior performed by adult males at the beginning of sexual encounters. Therefore, play ? fighting in juvenile hamsters cannot be thought of merely as a form of “mock fighting ” since the principal target is seemingly sexual, not agonistic. The data also show that of the sexual body targets contacted, adult females are more likely to defend the mouth. In this way it is suggested that targets attacked and defended during juvenile play fighting are derived from adult contexts in which such targets are defended. This hypothesis accounts for the prevalence of agonistic targets in the play fighting of many species, and may provide a rationale for classifying those amicable targets that are competed for during play fighting. Copyright © 1989 Wiley?Liss, Inc., A Wiley Company

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