Behavioural and physiological correlates of personality in greylag geese (Anser anser)

Abstract

Personality means suites of correlated behavioural traits, also referred to as “behavioural syndromes” or “personality dimensions”. Across animal taxa similar combinations of traits seem to prevail, which may have proximate foundation in common neuroendocrine mechanisms. Hitherto, these have been rarely studied in intact social settings. We investigated personalities of greylag goose males from a free-roaming flock that shows complex social relationships. In connection with our longitudinal study on the consistency of behavioural and physiological responses to multiple challenges, we asked whether and how single, personality-related behavioural traits correlate with each other to form personality dimension(s). We tested whether these dimensions were related to physiological characteristics that previously showed limited plasticity (heart rate (HR), baseline and stress-induced excreted immuno-reactive corticosterone (BM), and testosterone metabolites levels) and, furthermore, to age, body measures, and dominance rank. Principal-components analysis based on behavioural variables revealed two factors: 51.1% of variability was explained by “aggressiveness” and a further 19.1% by “sociability”. “Aggressiveness” comprised correlated measures of aggression, subordinance, boldness, vigilance, and proximity to the mate. This “aggressiveness” positively correlated with stress-induced BM levels, the HR increase during aggressive interactions, and with dominance rank, which may suggest proximate and functional contingencies of this personality dimension.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Bianca Brantner, Didone Frigerio, Josef Hemetsberger, Michel Kalas, Margit Kirnbauer, Violetta Pilorz, and Isabella Scheiber for help in the experimental part of the study; Erich Moestl for developing the indispensable antibodies for EIA, for letting us use them, and for discussions; Anna Aschauer and Anna Schöbitz for analysis of faecal samples; Cene Fišer for discussions on the topics; and Matjaž Kuntner and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the manuscript. The project was funded by FWF project 15766-B03 to K. Kotrschal. S. Kralj-Fišer was supported by a Grant from the Fürst Dietrichstein’sche Stiftung and the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS Grant 1000-06-310141 to M. Kuntner). Permanent support came from the “Verein der Förderer der Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle“ and the “Herzog von Cumberland Stiftung“.

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Correspondence to Simona Kralj-Fišer.

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Kralj-Fišer, S., Weiß, B.M. & Kotrschal, K. Behavioural and physiological correlates of personality in greylag geese (Anser anser). J Ethol 28, 363–370 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-009-0197-1

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Keywords

  • Aggressiveness
  • Behavioural syndromes
  • Corticosterone
  • Dominance
  • Heart rate
  • Personality
  • Sociability