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Fighting over burrows : the emergence of dominance hierarchies in the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus)

Sbragaglia, Valerio; Leiva, David; Arias, Anna; Garcia, Jose Antonio; Aguzzi, Jacopo; Breithaupt, Thomas


Valerio Sbragaglia

David Leiva

Anna Arias

Jose Antonio Garcia

Jacopo Aguzzi


Animals fight over resources such as mating partners, territory, food or shelter and repeated contests lead to stable social hierarchies in different phyla. The group dynamics of hierarchy formation are not characterized in the Norway lobsters (Nephrops norvegicus). Lobsters spend most of the day in burrows and forage outside of them according to a diel (i.e. 24-h based) activity rhythm. Here, we use a linear and generalized mixed model approach to analyse, in 7 groups of 4 male lobsters, the formation of dominance hierarchies and rank related changes in burrowing behaviour. We show that hierarchies emerge within 1 to 3 days and increase in steepness over a period of 5 days, while rank changes and number of fights gradually decrease over a 5 day period. The rank position determined by open area fights predicts the outcome of fights over burrows, the time spent in burrows, and the locomotor activity levels. Dominant lobsters are more likely to evict subordinate lobsters from their burrows and more successful in defending their own burrows. They spend more time in burrows and display lower levels of locomotor activity outside the burrow. Lobsters do not change their diel activity rhythms as a result of a change in rank, and all tested individuals showed higher activity at night and dusk compared to dawn and day. We discuss how behavioural changes in burrowing behaviour could lead to rank related benefits such a reduced exposure to predators and energy savings.


Sbragaglia, V., Leiva, D., Arias, A., Garcia, J. A., Aguzzi, J., & Breithaupt, T. (2017). Fighting over burrows : the emergence of dominance hierarchies in the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus). The journal of experimental biology, 220(24), 4624-4633.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2017
Online Publication Date Oct 19, 2017
Publication Date Dec 15, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 20, 2017
Publicly Available Date Oct 23, 2018
Journal Journal of experimental biology
Print ISSN 0022-0949
Electronic ISSN 1477-9145
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 220
Issue 24
Pages 4624-4633
Keywords Nephrops norvegicus; Dominance hierarchy; Fighting; Burrow; Locomotor activity; Biological rhythms
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article published in Journal of experimental biology, 2017.


Article (1.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

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