How do an­i­mals wage war?

The beasts that do bat­tle

World of Animals - - What's In­side - Words Matt Ayres

In na­ture, con­flict is inevitable. In the fight for sur­vival an­i­mals of­ten have to fight with one an­other. Whether it’s a case of de­fend­ing ter­ri­tory, bat­tling for breed­ing rights or killing prey, there are mil­lions of minia­ture wars rag­ing across the nat­u­ral world at any given time.

Some crea­tures are more pre­dis­posed to life on the bat­tle­field than oth­ers. In­deed, the an­i­mals that are most revered by hu­mans – in­tel­li­gent apes, wily wolves, proud lions and en­dear­ing dol­phins – are among the most im­pres­sive ex­am­ples when it comes to col­lab­o­ra­tive hunt­ing. It’s prob­a­bly no co­in­ci­dence that we hold these species in such high re­gard: as the most in­tel­li­gent species on Earth, it’s nat­u­ral for hu­mans to re­late to crea­tures that dis­play sim­i­larly smart sur­vival strate­gies and so­cial skills.

Yet mam­mals are by no means the only ex­am­ples of team­work in na­ture’s on­go­ing con­flicts. Al­liances can be ob­served in al­most ev­ery or­der of the an­i­mal king­dom. In­sects such as ants and ter­mites con­duct raids on the nests of their en­e­mies, raz­ing forests for re­sources as they march du­ti­fully in the name of their queens. Birds scout the skies and per­form ruth­less aerial at­tacks on their land-borne prey, with species such as Har­ris’ hawks kook­abur­ras col­lab­o­rat­ing to en­sure suc­cess. Even fish are at war with one an­other, form­ing un­likely part­ner­ships to se­cure meals. These an­i­mals are proof of evo­lu­tion’s abil­ity to mimic the hu­man arms race.

“As the most in­tel­li­gent species on Earth, it’s nat­u­ral for hu­mans to re­late to crea­tures that dis­play sim­i­lar strate­gies”

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