Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 4, pp 693-702

First online:

Are behavioral syndromes invariant? Spatiotemporal variation in shy/bold behavior in squid

  • David L. SinnAffiliated withSchool of Aquaculture, University of TasmaniaSchool of Plant Science, University of TasmaniaSchool of Zoology, University of Tasmania Email author 
  • , Natalie A. MoltschaniwskyjAffiliated withSchool of Aquaculture, University of Tasmania
  • , Erik WapstraAffiliated withSchool of Zoology, University of Tasmania
  • , Sasha R. X. DallAffiliated withCentre for Ecology & Conservation, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus

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Behavioral syndromes are correlated suites of behavior, analogous to human personality traits. Most work to date has been taken from limited “snapshots” in space and time, with the implicit assumption that a behavioral syndrome is an invariant property, fixed by evolutionary constraints or adaptations. However, directional selection on two mechanistically independent traits (selective covariance) could also result in correlated behaviors. Previously, we have shown that shy/bold behavior in Southern dumpling squid (Euprymna tasmanica) across predator encounter and feeding risk contexts is genetically and phenotypically uncoupled, and hence potentially free to vary independently. Here, we collected data on shy/bold behaviors from two independent wild populations of squid in two different years to test whether behavioral correlations across these same two functional contexts vary through time and space. We detected significant influences of population, sex, and body size on the expression of boldness in squid within each functional context, and this was coupled with significant differences in relative population density and adult sex ratio. Despite these changes in behavior and demographic parameters, we found that correlations between boldness scores across the two functional contexts were largely absent in both wild populations of squid in both years. Our work suggests that some animal groups may be largely characterized by context-specific behavioral expression. A theoretical framework which conceptualizes behavioral syndromes resulting from context-specific behavioral rules may be needed to fully understand why behaviors are sometimes correlated, and why sometimes they are not.


Behavioral syndromes Shy/bold Selective covariance State-dependent optimization