Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 511–520 | Cite as

Individual boldness affects interspecific interactions in sticklebacks

  • M. M. WebsterEmail author
  • A. J. W. Ward
  • P. J. B. Hart
Original Paper


Within populations of many species, individuals that are otherwise similar to one another in age, size or sex can differ markedly in behaviours such as resource use, risk taking and competitive ability. There has been much research into the implications of such variation for intraspecific interactions, yet little investigation into its role in influencing interspecific interactions outside of a predator–prey context. In this study, we investigated the role of individual-level behavioural variation in determining the outcomes of interactions between two ecologically similar fishes, the threespine and ninespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus and Pungitius pungitius). Experiment 1 asked whether individuals of both species were consistent in their expression of two behaviours: activity in novel surroundings and latency to attack prey. For each behaviour, focal individuals were assayed twice, 10 days apart. Performances were positively correlated between exposures, suggesting behavioural consistency within individuals, at least over this timescale. Experiment 2 revealed not only differences in habitat use described both by species-level variation, with ninespines spending more time in vegetated areas, but also by individual differences, with more active individuals of both species spending more time in open water than in vegetation. Experiment 3 revealed that when heterospecific pairs competed for prey, bolder individuals consumed a greater share, irrespective of species. These findings suggest that individual-level variation can facilitate overlap in habitat use between heterospecifics and also determine the outcomes of resource contests when they meet. We discuss how this might vary between populations as a function of prevailing selection pressures and suggest approaches for testing our predictions.


Bold–shy axis Personality Temperament Behavioural syndrome 



Mike Webster was supported by a NERC studentship. All procedures carried out in this study conformed to the current laws of the UK. We thank Theo Bakker and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. Webster
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • A. J. W. Ward
    • 1
    • 3
  • P. J. B. Hart
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  2. 2.School of BiologyUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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