Unravelling the relationships between life history, behaviour and condition under the pace-of-life syndromes hypothesis using long-term data from a wild bird

  • Mónika Jablonszky
  • Eszter Szász
  • Katalin Krenhardt
  • Gábor Markó
  • Gergely Hegyi
  • Márton Herényi
  • Miklós Laczi
  • Gergely Nagy
  • Balázs Rosivall
  • Eszter Szöllősi
  • János Török
  • László Zsolt Garamszegi
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Pace-of-life syndromes: a framework for the adaptive integration of behaviour, physiology and life-history


The hypothesis of pace-of-life syndromes (POLS) predicts relationships between traits including life history traits and risk-taking behaviour that can be mediated by the trade-off between current and future reproductive value. However, alternative causal mechanisms may also generate covariance among these traits without trade-offs. We investigated the relationships between survival to the next year, current reproductive investment and risk-taking behaviour (flight initiation distance) in male collared flycatchers, Ficedula albicollis, using long-term data. We used structural equation modelling (SEM) to uncover whether the associations among traits are mediated by a common latent factor that determines how individuals balance the trade-off between current and future reproductive value. As trade-offs could be concealed when there are differences in resource acquisition between individuals, we also included potential causes of these differences, body mass and body size, in the analysis. We found that risk-taking behaviour was positively related to reproductive investment and negatively to survival to the next year as could be predicted if investment into a risky behaviour is traded against future prospects. However, the most supported SEM model also suggested that survival to the next year was positively related to current reproductive investment, contrary to predictions of a hypothesis based on trade-off. These results remained qualitatively similar when controlling for body condition. In conclusion, we only could derive partial support for the POLS hypothesis. We suggest that aspects of individual quality, and not only trade-offs, should also be considered when interpreting the relationships between life history and behavioural traits.

Significance statement

We investigated the association between two life history components (survival to the next year and current reproductive effort) and risk-taking behaviour, relying on long-term records from a passerine bird, to investigate the predictions of the pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) hypothesis. Using structural equation modelling, we found support for a causal model that implies that risk-taking negatively affects survival to the next year and that survival to the next year and current reproductive effort are strongly and positively associated. Controlling for the effect of body condition did not fundamentally change these relationships. We could not find conclusive evidence for the investigated traits being mediated by a common underlying factor, as generally predicted by the POLS hypothesis. However, the sign of the relationship between risk-taking behaviour and survival to the next year was as predicted by the POLS hypothesis.


Behavioural syndrome Fitness Model selection FID Passerine Personality 



The authors thank all the organizers and participants of the two workshops Towards a general theory of the pace-of-life syndrome, held in Hannover in 2015 and 2016, for inspiring discussions as well as the Volkswagen Stiftung (Az. 89905) for generously funding these workshops. We thank the Behavioural Ecology Group of Eötvös Loránd University, especially Lilla Barabás, Nóra Boross, Rita Főző, Rita Hargitai, Dóra Kiss, Dóra Kötél, Éva Vaskuti and Sándor Zsebők for their help in the fieldwork. We are grateful to Niels J. Dingemanse, Pierre-Olivier Montiglio and an anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments on the manuscript. We are also grateful to the Pilis Park Forestry.

Funding information

This study was supported by funds from the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office (K-75618, K-101611, K-105517, K-115970) and by funds from the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness in Spain (CGL2015-70639-P).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. Permissions for the fieldwork have been provided by the Middle-Danube-Valley Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, Nature Conservation and Water Management, ref. no’s: KTVF 16360-2/2007, KTVF 30871-1/2008, KTVF 43355-1/2008, KTVF 45116-2/2011, KTVF 21664-3/2011, KTVF 12677-4/2012 and KTVF 10949-8/2013, and was approved by the ethical committee of the Eötvös Loránd University (ref. no. TTK/2203/3).

Supplementary material

265_2018_2461_MOESM1_ESM.docx (30 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mónika Jablonszky
    • 1
  • Eszter Szász
    • 1
  • Katalin Krenhardt
    • 1
  • Gábor Markó
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gergely Hegyi
    • 1
  • Márton Herényi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Miklós Laczi
    • 1
  • Gergely Nagy
    • 1
  • Balázs Rosivall
    • 1
  • Eszter Szöllősi
    • 1
    • 4
  • János Török
    • 1
  • László Zsolt Garamszegi
    • 5
  1. 1.Behavioural Ecology Group, Department of Systematic Zoology and EcologyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Department of Plant PathologySzent István UniversityBudapestHungary
  3. 3.Department of Zoology and Animal EcologySzent István UniversityGödöllőHungary
  4. 4.MTA-ELTE-MTM Ecology Research Group, Biological InstituteEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  5. 5.Department of Evolutionary EcologyEstación Biológica de Doñana-CSICSevilleSpain

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