CIE Spotlight: Individual and sex-specific differences in intrinsic growth rate covary with consistent individual differences in behaviour

Peter Biro

Peter B.

Title: Individual and sex-specific differences in intrinsic growth rate covary with consistent individual differences in behaviour.

Author Full Names: Peter A. Biro, Bart Adriaenssens and Portia Sampson.

Source: Journal of animal ecology, September 2014, 83 (5):1186-1195.

Brief summary of the paper: The evolutionary causes of consistent individual differences in behaviour are currently a source of debate. A recent hypothesis suggests that consistent individual differences in life-history productivity (growth and/or fecundity) may covary with behavioural traits that contribute to growth-mortality trade-offs, such as risk-proneness (boldness) and foraging activity (voraciousness). It remains unclear, however, to what extent individual behavioural and life-history profiles are set early in life, or are a more flexible result of specific environmental or developmental contexts that allow bold and active individuals to acquire more resources.

Longitudinal studies of individually housed animals under controlled conditions can shed light on this question. Since growth and behaviour can both vary within individuals (they are labile), studying between-individual correlations in behaviour and growth rate requires repeated scoring for both variables over an extended period of time. However, such a study has not yet been done.

Here, we repeatedly measured individual mass seven times each, boldness 40 times each and voracity eight times each during the first 4 months of life on 90 individually housed crayfish (Cherax destructor). Animals were fed ad libitum, generating a context where individuals can express their intrinsic growth rate (i.e. growth capacity), but in which bold and voracious behaviour is not necessary for high resource acquisition (crayfish can and do hoard food back to their burrow).

We show that individuals that were consistently bold over time during the day were also bolder at night, were more voracious and maintained higher growth rates over time than shy individuals. Independent of individual differences, we also observed that males were faster-growing, bolder and more voracious than females.

Our findings imply that associations between bold behaviour and fast growth can occur in unlimited food contexts where there is no necessary link between bold behaviour and resource acquisition – offering support for the ‘personality–productivity’ hypothesis. We suggest future research should study links between consistent individual differences in behaviour and life history under a wider range of contexts, in order to shed light on the role of biotic and abiotic conditions in the strength, direction and stability of their covariance.