We examined agonistic behaviour in hatchling Australian freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni) at 2 weeks, 13 weeks, and 50 weeks after hatching, and between C. johnstoni and saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) at 40–50 weeks of age. Among C. johnstoni, agonistic interactions (15–23 s duration) were well established by two weeks old and typically involved two and occasionally three individuals, mostly between 17 : 00 and 24 : 00 hours in open-water areas of enclosures. A range of discrete postures, non-contact and contact movements are described. The head is rarely targeted in contact movements with C. johnstoni because they exhibit a unique ‘head raised high’ posture, and engage in ‘push downs’. In contrast with C. porosus of a similar age, agonistic interactions between C. johnstoni were conducted with relatively low intensity and showed limited ontogenetic change; there was also no evidence of a dominance hierarchy among hatchlings by 50 weeks of age, when the frequency of agonistic interactions was lowest. Agonistic interactions between C. johnstoni and C. porosus at 40–50 weeks of age were mostly low level, with no real exclusion or dominance observed. However, smaller individuals of both species moved slowly out of the way when a larger individual of either species approached. When medium- or high-level interspecific interactions did occur, it was between similar-sized individuals, and each displayed species-specific behaviours that appeared difficult for contestants to interpret: there was no clear winner or loser. The nature of agonistic interactions between the two species suggests that dominance may be governed more strongly by size rather than by species-specific aggressiveness.
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Vol. 61 • No. 3