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Every animal contest has a unique set of costs and benefits. Individuals better able to estimate these values and use this information to decide on whether or not to fight for a resource should achieve higher relative fitness. Two major classes of information can influence when and
how an animal will fight. The value of the contested resource sets the benefits to be gained. The relative fighting ability of the contestants determines the potential costs. This paper discusses how stomatopod Crustacea assess and use these types of information. Not surprisingly, as the value
of a resource such as a cavity increases, an individual is more likely to fight for it. More interesting are situations where stomatopods attempt to determine the fighting abilities and/or motivation of an opponent. Stomatopods use several tactics to assess an opponent's fighting ability including
escalated contests, ritualized tests of strength, and estimates of size. They also can recognize individuals and use previous experience with an opponent to gauge future interactions. I also show that variations in an animal's own fighting ability enter into decisions on how and when to fight.
Such a sophisticated assessment repertoire most likely evolved in stomatopods in association with the development of powerful offensive weapons.
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