Spoiling for a fight

2019-03-06 04:05:07

By Jon Copley SUN TZU, the 5th century BC Chinese tactician, wrote that knowing your enemy is the key to victory, and military manuals still echo his advice. But while this strategy might benefit individuals and armies, a fresh look at a model of animal behaviour shows that it’s disastrous for populations as a whole. Rufus Johnstone of Cambridge University modified a classic model of animal aggression to include “eavesdroppers” – animals that watch conflicts between other animals and use this to judge whether or not to fight when they come face to face with one of the combatants. Surprisingly,