Lateralization influences contest behaviour in domestic pigs
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Cerebral lateralization, i.e. hemispheric asymmetries in structure and function, relates in many species to a preference to attack from their left. Lateralization increases cognitive capacity, enabling the simultaneous processing of multiple sources of information. Therefore, lateralization may constitute a component of fighting ability (Resource Holding Potential), and /or influence the efficiency of information-gathering during a contest. We hypothesized that lateralization will affect contest outcome and duration, with an advantage for more strongly lateralized individuals. In 52 dyadic contests between weight-matched pigs (Sus scrofa; n=104; 10 wk age), the direction of orientation towards the opponent was scan sampled every 10s. Laterality indexes (LI) were calculated for the direction and strength of lateralization. Up to 12.5% of the individuals showed significant lateralization towards either the right or left but lateralization was absent at the population level. In line with our hypothesis, animals showing strong lateralization (irrespective of direction) had a shorter contest duration than animals showing weak lateralization. Winners did not differ from losers in their strength or direction of lateralization. Overall the results suggest that cerebral lateralization may aid in conflict resolution, but does not directly contribute to fighting ability, and will be of value in the study of animal contests.
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