Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Campbell: Staying alive

Aggression in female mammals: Is it really rare?

Paul F. Brain a1
a1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Swansea, Swansea SA2 8PP, United Kingdom


The view that female mammals are more docile appears to arise in part from imposing human values on animal studies. Many reports of sexual dimorphism in physical aggression favouring the male in laboratory rodents appear to select circumstances where that expectation is supported. Other situations that favour the expression of conflict in females have been (until recently) relatively little studied. Although female rodents generally do not show the “ritualised” forms of conflict that characterise male sexual competition, they can use notably damaging strategies (especially if they are of short duration). Such considerations might weigh in the selection of strategies by our own species.