Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Wikipedia.


Behavior patterns in which an animal actively defends a space or some other resource. One major advantage of territoriality is that it gives the territory holder exclusive access to the defended resource, which is generally associated with feeding, breeding, or shelter from predators or climatic forces. Feeding and breeding territories can be mobile, such as when an animal defends a newly obtained food source or a temporarily receptive mate. Stationary territories often serve multiple functions and include access to food, a place to rear young, and a refuge site from predators and the elements.

Territoriality can be understood in terms of the benefits and costs accrued to territory holders. Benefits include time saved by foraging in a known area, energy acquired through feeding on territorial resources, reduction in time spent on the lookout for predators, or increase in number of mates attracted and offspring raised. Costs usually involve time and energy expended in patrolling and defending the territorial site, and increased risk of being captured by a predator when engaged in territorial defense.

Because territories usually include resources that are in limited supply, active defense is often necessary. Such defense frequently involves a graded series of behaviors called displays that include threatening gestures such as vocalizations, spreading of wings or gill covers, lifting and presentation of claws, head bobbing, tail and body beating, and finally, direct attack. Direct confrontation can usually be avoided by advertising the location of a territory in a way that allows potential intruders to recognize the boundaries and avoid interactions with the defender. Such advertising may involve odors that are spread with metabolic by-products, such as urine or feces in dogs, cats, or beavers, or produced specifically as territory markers, as in ants. Longer-lasting territorial marks can involve visual signals such as scrapes and rubs, as in deer and bear. See Chemical ecology, Ethology, Population ecology, Reproductive behavior



the occupation of a physical area by animals to determine the spatial relationships among individuals of the same species or of various species. Territoriality regulates the distribution and population level of animals. Species are classified as nonmigratory, or territorial, and migratory. Individuals or families of territorial species occupy definite areas, which they often defend against intruders. Territorial aquatic animals inelude crustaceans, mollusks, members of the suborder Batoidei, certain sharks, members of the suborder Ceratioidei, pike, and sheatfish. Territorial terrestrials include insects, especially large predators, and reptiles, mainly lizards, snakes, and turtles.

Territoriality has been most thoroughly studied in birds and mammals. Among birds, territories are defended by individuals, usually males, or by families. Some species defend only the territory immediately adjacent to their shelter and feed with neighbors in common feeding grounds. Rodents and other animals defend feeding grounds as well. Often several families group together in one area, which they defend against newcomers. Prides of lions, consisting of several males and females with their young, occupy a hunting ground dozens of square kilometers in area. The males defend this territory from intruders, while the females feed the entire pride by hunting. Small birds, rodents, and many predators establish and defend nesting areas only during the reproductive season. Later the families gather into large groups and lead a migratory way of life, which facilitates the collective training of the young.

Another form of territoriality is characteristic of migratory species, such as ungulates, cetaceans, pinnipeds, and many primates, the communities of which occupy definite feeding grounds. At the mating places of ungulates and the lies of pinnipeds, the males form harems that occupy definite areas. Small, jealously guarded nesting areas are established in nesting colonies of seagulls, other seashore bird colonies, and heavily populated communities of marmots, susliks, and pikas.


Lake, D. Chislennost’ zhivotnykh i ee reguliatsiia v prirode. (Translated from English.) Moscow, 1957.
Naumov, N. P. Ekologiia zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1963.
MacFadyen, A. Ekologiia zhivotnykh. (Translated from English.) Moscow, 1965.
Odum, E. Osnovy ekologii. (Translated from English.) Moscow, 1975.
Kendeigh, S. C. Ecology. New York-London, 1974.



A pattern of behavior in which one or more animals occupy and defend a definite area or territory.
References in periodicals archive ?
Whereas the rejection of territoriality in the late
The use of active netting does not measure territoriality or aggression directly, and thus additional analyses need to be conducted to determine if males and females, and adults and young birds are truly equal competitors in winter.
When prosecuting many traditional crimes, applying the territoriality principle confers multiple advantages.
Discussion--The literature has been contradictory regarding presence-absence of breeding territoriality in males of M.
Both Kleinbard and Avi-Yonah also reject the argument according to which territoriality is the remedy to the trapped-cash phenomenon.
92) It also concluded that the presumption against extra territoriality does not apply when effects are felt within the United States.
The principle of territoriality is elementary, like a person's sense of touch.
HRH spoke of Aohuman and social choke points within the nexus of TIM: Territoriality, Identity and MigrationAo.
Arranged by family, entries for each species discuss such features as distribution, habitat, activity, behavior, ecomorphology, foraging and diet, home range and territoriality, hybridization, longevity, parasites, population size and density, predation, reproduction, size, thermal biology, and conservation status.
Likewise, the primacy of territoriality to deal with criminality no longer prevails.
It also proposes two cross-cutting "beams" - governance and territoriality.