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Correlates of boldness in three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

Abstract

Behavioural variation is known to occur between individuals of the same population competing for resources. Individuals also vary with respect to their boldness or shyness. An individual’s position along the shy-bold axis may be defined as the extent to which it is willing to trade off potentially increased predation risks for possible gains in resources. Similarly, group living may be interpreted as a trade-off between anti-predatory tactics and foraging efficiency. The responses of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) were tested across four social contexts to assess relative boldness or shyness and to further examine whether their behaviour would be consistent within and between contexts. Individuals displayed consistent responses within and between the first two contexts: those individuals which resumed foraging rapidly after a simulated aerial predator attack also displayed low shoaling tendencies. Such fish were deemed to be bold, whilst those which displayed the converse behaviour, slow resumption of foraging and a high shoaling tendency, were deemed to be shy. In a third context, bold individuals out-competed shy conspecifics for food. Boldness was also positively correlated with growth over a 6-week period. The position adopted by an individual within a group is usually interpreted as a trade-off between predation risk and foraging efficiency—both are greater at the front of a mobile group. Bold individuals showed significantly stronger tendencies towards front positions than shy conspecifics. The results suggest that, contrary to some previous studies on other animals, bold or shy behaviour in sticklebacks is consistent between contexts.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Tatiana Czeschlik, Neil Metcalfe and two anonymous referees for their time and comments which transformed this manuscript. In addition, the authors would like to thank Steve Ison for his valuable assistance over the course of this study. A.W. was funded by the National Environmental Research Council of the UK. These experiments comply with the current laws of the UK.

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Correspondence to Ashley J. W. Ward.

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Communicated by T. Czeschlik

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Ward, A.J.W., Thomas, P., Hart, P.J.B. et al. Correlates of boldness in three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55, 561–568 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-003-0751-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-003-0751-8

Keywords

  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • Bold
  • Shy
  • Shoaling
  • Competition