Divergent competitive phenotypes between females of two sex-role-reversed species
- Sara E. Lipshutz
- Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
This paper introduces a Theme Issue combining interdisciplinary perspectives in the study of female competition and aggression. Despite a history of being largely overlooked, evidence is now accumulating for the widespread evolutionary significance of female competition. Here, we provide a synthesis of contributions to this Theme Issue on humans and other vertebrates, and highlight directions for future research. Females compete for resources needed to survive and reproduce, and for preferred mates. Although female aggression takes diverse forms, under most circumstances relatively low-risk competitive strategies are favoured, most probably due to constraints of offspring production and care. In social species, dominance relationships and threats of punishment can resolve social conflict without resort to direct aggression, and coalitions or alliances may reduce risk of retaliation. Consistent with these trends, indirect aggression is a low cost but effective form of competition among young women. Costs are also minimized by flexibility in expression of competitive traits, with aggressive behaviour and competitive signalling tailored to social and ecological conditions. Future research on female competition and the proximate mediators of female aggression will be greatly enhanced by opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange, as evidenced by contributions to this Theme Issue.