First Advisor

Richard B. Forbes

Term of Graduation

Spring 1973

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology






Chipmunks -- Behavior, Agonistic behavior in animals, Social hierarchy in animals



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 52 pages)


Agonistic behavior and dominance are described for captive Townsend's chipmunks (Eutamias townsendii). A total of 10,739 encounters was recorded; 6441 (59.9%) were agonistic. Chases (58.5%) and displacements (30.8%) were the predominant agonistic behaviors; threats (6.8%) and fights (4.l%) were relatively rare.

Stable, non-triangular hierarchies were rapidly established in 11 of the 12 groups of chipmunks observed; the presence of individuals of equal rank in some groups precluded strict linearity. Dominance positions did not change within a group, but reversals in rank and changes from equal to dominant-subordinate relationships occurred when the membership of groups was changed. One hierarchy existed for both sexes; neither sex was consistently dominant. Experience and individual differences in activity and aggressiveness were more important determinants of an animal's position than were sex or size. No correlation was found between rank and encounter frequency, nor was closeness of rank strongly correlated with high numbers of agonistic encounters between any two chipmunks. The frequencies of recognitory and sexual behavior were inversely related to the frequency of agonistic behavior between the pairs of animals.

Ritualized threats and appeasement behaviors did not replace overt aggression in established hierarchies. Members of hierarchies showed neither a reduction in numbers of agonistic encounters, nor temporal changes frequency of the different types of agonistic behavior. Agonistic encounters increased in frequency from August to December, but seasonal variations wore much smaller than variations among the groups. Although dominance reduced neither the frequency of agonistic behavior nor the time and energy spent in chasing, it nay be advantageous in curtailing harmful confrontations and enhancing the establishment of tolerance among some individuals.


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