The Association Between Play Fighting and Information Gathering during Subsequent Contests

Jennifer E. Weller*, Simon P. Turner, Marianne Farish, Irene Camerlink, Gareth Arnott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Many hypotheses regarding the evolution of social play have been suggested, including the development of later-life assessment skills. However, the link between play fighting experience and information gathering during contests has yet to be examined. This paper explores the association between play fighting and contest assessment strategy in the domestic pig (Sus scrofa). Using an established framework, we provide evidence suggesting play fighting frequency may affect the extent to which individuals incorporate information regarding their own and their competitors’ resource holding potential (RHP) in escalation decisions. Pigs were allocated as ‘high play’ or ‘low play’ based upon their relative play fighting frequency. To maximise variation in play, 12 litters underwent a socialisation treatment while the remaining 12 litters were kept isolated within their home pen (i.e. control treatment). At eight weeks of age contests were staged between pairs of unfamiliar pigs, using 19 ‘high play’ dyads and 19 ‘low play’ dyads. While ‘high play’ dyads were observed to rely on a pure self-assessment strategy, ‘low play dyads’ did not meet the predictions of either self- or mutual assessment, suggesting their contest behaviour may have been motivated by alternative factors. We suggest that early life play fighting may therefore allow individuals to develop an accurate estimate of their RHP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1133
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jan 2020
Publication statusFirst published - 24 Jan 2020


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