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Territoriality

Territoriality

A pattern of animal behavior, territoriality implies a fixed area (or territory) from which intruders are excluded by the owner through a combination of advertising, threatening, and attacking behaviors. It is important to distinguish between a territory and a home range , because the appearance of an outsider will elicit different reactions from the animal that lives in, or frequents, the area. Unlike an animal's marked territory, its home range is an area in which the individual roams about but the individual rarely defends it against other animals. There are some species, such as the breeding song sparrow, whose territory and home range are one and the same. In the majority of species, however, the territory tends to be smaller than the home range or the two areas overlap so that only part of the home range is defended as territory.

A question most often asked regarding the defense of a territory is: Why do owners usually win? In weighing the benefits versus the costs of defense, the owner is more likely to escalate the battle than the intruder because the owner has already invested in the area of conflict. The land is worth more to the owner not only because of familiarity with the area but also because the individual may be fighting to maintain exclusive access to the resources found on the territory. These resources may include one or more of the following: food, water, nest sites, and potential/current mates.

There are some costs of defense that the owner must assess as well. There may be time loss from other activities, such as foraging for food or mating. There is also an energy cost in defending an area. The signaling activities can be energetically expensive be they through continual chattering (e.g., squirrels), proclamations through singing (e.g., songbirds), or leaving scent marks at different points in and around the territory (e.g., bears). Further energy is expended in patrolling the perimeters and chasing off any animal that is getting too close to the boundaries or has crossed over into the territory. Finally, there is the risk of injury in battle with any intruder as well as a risk of predation as the owner focuses more on guarding and is therefore less guarded against attack.

There are three categories of territories: breeding, feeding, and allpurpose. The breeding territory is relatively small. It usually contains only a nesting or mating site. This type of territory is most characteristic of colonially nesting species that cluster nests at limited safe sites, such as in lekking or chorusing species where the males aggregate to attract females. The feeding territory tends to be larger than the breeding territory because it must contain sufficient food to support the owner of the territory and any mate or offspring that may also be residing there. Defense of the feeding territory is greatest during the nonbreeding season, because the individual's attention is more focused on the territory. The owner also becomes more vigilant during times when food is scarce. The cost of defense is worthwhile to the owner as it ensures the individual exclusive access of the area's resources. Finally, the all-purpose territory is generally the largest as it includes aspects of both breeding and feeding territories.

For all three of these types of territories, there are usually adjacent territories contiguous with an individual's proscribed area. The owner of a particular territory may have as few as two and as many as six neighbors with whom it shares common boundaries. The network of these contiguous territories is known collectively as a "neighborhood."

Territorial defense is generally employed only against animals of the same species, because animals of a different species will often inhabit a different niche within the same territory. In this manner, different species can coexist in the same area and not impinge on each other's food resources. Furthermore, there is no threat of the other animal stealing the owner's mate.

With the hierarchies that are found within communities, the territorial system comes into play as the stronger, more aggressive animal generally wins the better territory and maintains it against others. These systems have effects not only on an individual basis but also at the population level as well. If resources were allocated "fairly" to each member of a community or a species, then there actually may not be enough to sustain any one individual. (If resources become scarce because of a fire or drought, the individual may expand its territory in order to find sustenance.) This kind of division of territories, and thereby resources, would lead to population crashes. While it may be difficult to establish one's own territory, that kind of competition is necessary in order for the species to survive.

see also Foraging Strategies; Home Range.

Danielle Schnur

Bibliography

Alcock, John. Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach, 4th ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 1989.

Bradbury, Jack W., and Sandra L. Vehrencamp. Principles of Animal Communication. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 1998.

Campbell, Neil A. Biology, 3rd ed. Berkeley, CA: Benjamin/Cummings, 1993.

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territoriality

territoriality The establishment, demarcation, and defence of an area by animals, normally during mating ritual. Once territory has been established the animals can exist without disturbance and with sufficient food for the offspring. Evidence shows that among territorial species individuals without a territory rarely breed.

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territoriality

territoriality The establishment, demarcation, and defence of an area by animals, normally during mating ritual. Once territory has been established the animals can exist without disturbance and with sufficient food for the offspring. Evidence shows that among territorial species individuals without a territory rarely breed.

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Territoriality

TERRITORIALITY

A term that signifies a connection or limitation with reference to a particular geographic area or country.

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"Territoriality." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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