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  Life scientists use the term aggression (Latin, ‘assault’) to describe behaviour (of an animal towards another) which serves to injure or provokes retreat. A workable definition of aggression is, however, difficult to achieve: for example, predatory aggression is sometimes excluded. Aggression may arise when there is competition for some requirement such as territory, food or a mate. It has been studied most thoroughly in mammals, where it can be broken down into attack and defensive threat patterns, both of which may be quite rigidly mapped out in a given species. An aggressive response requires interaction with another individual and the course the aggressive behaviour follows may be modified by the response of the other individual. Thus aggression can elicit a submissive response, such as exposure of the throat, and this response can inhibit aggression. When aggression occurs between members of the same species or social group, one individual often backs down in this way before violence occurs. However, interspecies aggression can result in violence and even death if the pressure which initiated the behaviour is sufficiently strong. RB

See also ethology; mimicry.Further reading Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene.



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