Are shy individuals less behaviorally variable? Insights from a captive population of mouse lemurs

Abstract

Increasingly, individual variation in personality has become a focus of behavioral research in animal systems. Boldness and shyness, often quantified as the tendency to explore novel situations, are seen as personality traits important to the fitness landscape of individuals. Here we tested for individual differences within and across contexts in behavioral responses of captive mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) to novel objects, novel foods, and handling. We report consistent differences in behavioral responses for objects and handling. We also found that the responses to handling and novel objects were correlated and repeatable. Lastly, we show that shyer individuals may show less variability in their behavioral responses. This study provides new information on the potential for behavioral syndromes in this species and highlights differences in the degree to which behavioral types (e.g., shy/bold) vary in their behavioral responses.

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Acknowledgments

Our study was approved by the institutional Animal Care Committee at Duke University (A-227-09-08) and adheres to the guidelines of the American Society of Primatologists’ Principles for the Ethical Treatment of Non-Human Primates. We thank the DLC staff for their assistance with handling data collection and other logistical support. We thank Dr. Sarah Zehr and two anonymous reviewers for comments that greatly improved this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jennifer L. Verdolin.

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J. L. Verdolin and J. Harper are co-first authors.

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Verdolin, J.L., Harper, J. Are shy individuals less behaviorally variable? Insights from a captive population of mouse lemurs. Primates 54, 309–314 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-013-0360-8

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Keywords

  • Boldness
  • Novel object
  • Personality
  • Behavioral repeatability
  • Temperament