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An aspect of aggression, in which combat occurs during disputes over some resource, such as food, territory, or mates. Fighting does not normally occur between members of different species, except in cases of mistaken identity.

Fighting usually takes the form of ritualized combat. For example, the oryx (Oryx gazella) has sharp, pointed horns that could inflict mortal wounds. These may be used in defence against predators, but in contests among oryx, the horns are used in a purely ritualized manner. The rivals lock horns and wrestle. It is against the rules to stab a rival in the side. Similarly, rattlesnakes (Crotalus spp.) settle their differences with ritualized trials of strength in which one attempts to pin the other to the ground. They do not use their poisonous bite against rivals. (See Figures 3 and 4.)

Fighting is usually preceded by assessment, in which the antagonists assess each other's fighting potential, by looking at body size, weapons, etc., and by detecting pheromones that may give clues to the degree of fear and commitment of the antagonist.

Fig. 3. Ritualized technique of fighting in the oryx (Oryx gazella).

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.

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