The organization of play fighting in the grasshopper mouse (Onychomys leucogaster): Mixing predatory and sociosexual targets and tactics

The body targets contacted, the type of contact made, and the patterns of defense and counterattack elicited by those attacks are examined in the play fighting of captive male and female pairs of grasshopper mice. The nape was the most frequently contacted body target, irrespective of the type of contact made, be it nosing, allogrooming, biting, or striking with a forepaw. The types of defense varied with both body area contacted and type of attack performed. Based on the topography and pattern of contact, it was concluded that grasshopper mice, as is the case for many other muroid rodents, primarily attack and defend targets otherwise contacted during precopulatory encounters. However, grasshopper mice, which are obligate carnivores, also attack and defend predatory targets, although less frequently than sociosexual targets. Surprisingly, predatory attacks were more likely to be counterattacked with predatory attacks, whereas sociosexual attacks were more likely to be counterattacked with sociosexual attacks. Conspecific aggression involves bites directed at the face, lower flanks, and dorsum. Neither the biting of these areas nor the tactics of attack and defense usually associated with such bites were observed during the juvenile interactions. There were no sex differences in either frequency or patterns of attack and defense in play fighting. The data presented for grasshopper mice shed light on the issue of mixing behavior patterns from multiple functional systems during play. Aggr. Behav. 26:317-334, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

The body targets contacted, the type of contact made, and the patterns of defense and counterattack elicited by those attacks are examined in the play fighting of captive male and female pairs of grasshopper mice. The nape was the most frequently contacted body target, irrespective of the type of contact made, be it nosing, allogrooming, biting, or striking with a forepaw. The types of defense varied with both body area contacted and type of attack performed. Based on the topography and pattern of contact, it was concluded that grasshopper mice, as is the case for many other muroid rodents, primarily attack and defend targets otherwise contacted during precopulatory encounters. However, grasshopper mice, which are obligate carnivores, also attack and defend predatory targets, although less frequently than sociosexual targets. Surprisingly, predatory attacks were more likely to be counterattacked with predatory attacks, whereas sociosexual attacks were more likely to be counterattacked with sociosexual attacks. Conspecific aggression involves bites directed at the face, lower flanks, and dorsum. Neither the biting of these areas nor the tactics of attack and defense usually associated with such bites were observed during the juvenile interactions. There were no sex differences in either frequency or patterns of attack and defense in play fighting. The data presented for grasshopper mice shed light on the issue of mixing behavior patterns from multiple functional systems during play. Aggr. Behav. 26:317-334, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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