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Costs of territoriality: A review of hypotheses, meta-analysis, and field study


Ord, Terry (2021), Costs of territoriality: A review of hypotheses, meta-analysis, and field study, Dryad, Dataset,


The evolution of territoriality reflects the balance between the benefit and cost of monopolising a resource. While the benefit of territoriality is generally intuitive (improved access to resources), our understanding of its cost is less clear. This paper combines: 1. a review of hypotheses and meta-analytic benchmarking of costs across diverse taxa; and 2. a new empirical test of hypotheses using a longitudinal study of free-living male territorial lizards. The cost of territoriality was best described as a culmination of multiple factors, but especially costs resulting from the time required to maintain a territory (identified by the meta-analysis) or those exacerbated by a territory that is large in size (identified by the empirical test). The meta-analysis showed that physiological costs such as energetic expenditure or stress were largely negligible in impact on territory holders. Species that used territories to monopolise access to mates appeared to incur the greatest costs, whereas those defending food resources experienced the least. The single largest gap in our current understanding revealed by the literature review is the potential cost associated with increased predation. There is also a clear need for multiple costs to be evaluated concurrently in a single species. The empirical component of this study showcases a powerful analytical framework for evaluating a range of hypotheses using correlational data obtained in the field. More broadly, this paper highlights key factors that should be considered in any investigation that attempts to account for the evolutionary origin or ecological variation in territorial behaviour within and between species.

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National Science Foundation, Award: IOB-0517041

National Science Foundation, Award: IOB-0516998