To understand the variation in aggressiveness and factors important for contest outcome, we quantified and compared agonistic interactions of four field cricket species in eastern North America: Gryllus fultoni (Orthoptera; Gryllidae), G. vernalis, G. pennsylvanicus, and G. rubens. The most aggressive behavior that we observed, the grapple, was frequently displayed in agonistic trials of G. pennsylvanicus and G. rubens. By contrast, we never observed this behavior in trials involving G. fultoni and G. vernalis. Consequently, species was the only significant variable affecting the variation in aggressiveness, whereas size difference, age difference, and contest duration had no significant effect. In species with high levels of aggressiveness, G. pennsylvanicus and G. rubens, the factors that might be indicative of resource holding potential such as size or age difference seemed to be significant for contest outcome. In species with low levels of aggressiveness, G. fultoni and G. vernalis, however, there were indications that contest outcomes were determined by aggressiveness itself rather than the size and age differences between opponents. Markov chain analyses revealed that the difference in aggressiveness between species with high and low levels of aggressiveness lay in a sequence of escalating behaviors: antennal fencing, mandible flare, and grapple. The escalated state of aggressiveness characterized by this behavioral sequence in G. pennsylvanicus and G. rubens seems to be the ancestral state in the North American Gryllus phylogeny. We argue that the loss of a tendency to use burrows in G. fultoni and G. vernalis might be related to low levels of aggressiveness in these species.
- Resource holding potential
- Resource value