Rival assessment among northern elephant seals
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Specialized signals emitted by competing males often convey honest information about fighting ability. It is generally believed that receivers use these signals to directly assess their opponents. Here, we demonstrate an alternative communication strategy used by males in a breeding system where the costs of conflict are extreme. We evaluated the acoustic displays of breeding male northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), and found that social knowledge gained through prior experience with signallers was sufficient to maintain structured dominance relationships.
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