Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 7, pp 1087–1094

Consistent crustaceans: the identification of stable behavioural syndromes in hermit crabs

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-012-1359-7

Cite this article as:
Mowles, S.L., Cotton, P.A. & Briffa, M. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2012) 66: 1087. doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1359-7


Consistent individual variation in behaviour has been termed ‘animal personality’ and has been identified across a range of behavioural contexts including aggression, boldness in response to a threatening stimulus and exploration. When behaviours are correlated across multiple functional behavioural categories or ‘contexts’, ‘behavioural syndromes’ are said to be present. It is possible, however, that behavioural syndromes may also show consistencies. Here we investigated the presence of behavioural syndromes linking startle responses, exploration and aggression in hermit crabs and assessed their stability across two situations (low versus high predation risk). Correlation analyses detected behavioural syndromes between startle responses, a measure of ‘boldness’, and the latency to investigate a novel object, as well as the latency to attack an opponent in an aggressive context. The startle response–investigation and startle response–aggression syndromes were stable between situations, whilst there was a lack of relationship between investigation and aggression in each situation. Here we propose that these consistent individual differences in the expression of behavioural syndromes reveal the presence of animal personality, manifesting in not just one, but a suite of interacting traits.


Behavioural syndrome Consistency Hermit crab Personality 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie L. Mowles
    • 1
  • Peter A. Cotton
    • 2
  • Mark Briffa
    • 2
  1. 1.School of BiosciencesThe University of NottinghamLoughboroughUK
  2. 2.Marine Biology and Ecology Research CentrePlymouth UniversityPlymouthUK

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