Experimental evidence for adaptive personalities in a wild passerine bird

Marion Nicolaus*, Joost M. Tinbergen, Karen M. Bouwman, Stephanie P. M. Michler, Richard Ubels, Christiaan Both, Bart Kempenaers, Niels J. Dingemanse

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

86 Citaten (Scopus)
509 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals of the same species differ consistently in risky actions. Such 'animal personality' variation is intriguing because behavioural flexibility is often assumed to be the norm. Recent theory predicts that between-individual differences in propensity to take risks should evolve if individuals differ in future fitness expectations: individuals with high long-term fitness expectations (i.e. that have much to lose) should behave consistently more cautious than individuals with lower expectations. Consequently, any manipulation of future fitness expectations should result in within-individual changes in risky behaviour in the direction predicted by this adaptive theory. We tested this prediction and confirmed experimentally that individuals indeed adjust their 'exploration behaviour', a proxy for risk-taking behaviour, to their future fitness expectations. We show for wild great tits (Parus major) that individuals with experimentally decreased survival probability become faster explorers (i.e. increase risk-taking behaviour) compared to individuals with increased survival probability. We also show, using quantitative genetics approaches, that non-genetic effects (i.e. permanent environment effects) underpin adaptive personality variation in this species. This study thereby confirms a key prediction of adaptive personality theory based on life-history trade-offs, and implies that selection may indeed favour the evolution of personalities in situations where individuals differ in future fitness expectations.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)4885-4892
Aantal pagina's8
TijdschriftProceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Nummer van het tijdschrift1749
StatusPublished - 22-dec.-2012

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