Behavioural consistency and life history of Rana dalmatina tadpoles

Abstract

The focus of evolutionary behavioural ecologists has recently turned towards understanding the causes and consequences of behavioural consistency, manifesting either as animal personality (consistency in a single behaviour) or behavioural syndrome (consistency across more behaviours). Behavioural type (mean individual behaviour) has been linked to life-history strategies, leading to the emergence of the integrated pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) theory. Using Rana dalmatina tadpoles as models, we tested if behavioural consistency and POLS could be detected during the early ontogenesis of this amphibian. We targeted two ontogenetic stages and measured activity, exploration and risk-taking in a common garden experiment, assessing both individual behavioural type and intra-individual behavioural variation. We observed that activity was consistent in all tadpoles, exploration only became consistent with advancing age and risk-taking only became consistent in tadpoles that had been tested, and thus disturbed, earlier. Only previously tested tadpoles showed trends indicative of behavioural syndromes. We found an activity—age at metamorphosis POLS in the previously untested tadpoles irrespective of age. Relative growth rate correlated positively with the intra-individual variation of activity of the previously untested older tadpoles. In previously tested older tadpoles, intra-individual variation of exploration correlated negatively and intra-individual variation of risk-taking correlated positively with relative growth rate. We provide evidence for behavioural consistency and POLS in predator- and conspecific-naive tadpoles. Intra-individual behavioural variation was also correlated to life history, suggesting its relevance for the POLS theory. The strong effect of moderate disturbance related to standard behavioural testing on later behaviour draws attention to the pitfalls embedded in repeated testing.

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Acknowledgments

We are highly indebted to Tibor Kovács, Gergely Nagy and Orsolya Molnár for their help during the fieldwork and the laboratory experiment. Our research was funded by the Hungarian State PhD Scholarship to (TJU), the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (K-105517) and the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (to GH), the FP7 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (PCIG13-GA-2013-631722) and the “Lendület” programme of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA, LP2012-24/2012; to AH), and the Spanish government within the framework of the ‘‘Plan Nacional” program (ref. no. CGL2012- 38262 and CGL2012-40026-C02-01; to LZG). Our experiment was done under the permit of Middle-Danube Valley Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, Nature Conservation and Water Management (ref. no. 8464-2/2011) and followed the guidelines of the Hungarian Act of Animal Care and Experimentation (1998, XXVIII, Sect. 243/1998), which conforms to the regulation of animal experiments by the European Union.

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Correspondence to Tamás János Urszán.

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Communicated by Craig A. Layman.

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Urszán, T.J., Török, J., Hettyey, A. et al. Behavioural consistency and life history of Rana dalmatina tadpoles. Oecologia 178, 129–140 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3207-0

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Keywords

  • Animal personality
  • Intra-individual behavioural variation
  • Behavioural syndrome
  • Pace-of-life syndrome
  • Temperament