Changes in wild red squirrel personality across ontogeny: activity and aggression regress towards the mean

in Behaviour
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Both juvenile and adult animals display stable behavioural differences (personality), but lifestyles and niches may change as animals mature, raising the question of whether personality changes across ontogeny. Here, we use a wild population of red squirrels to examine changes in activity and aggression from juvenile to yearling life stages. Personality may change at the individual level (individual stability), population level (mean level stability), and relative to other individuals (differential stability). We calculated all three types of stability, as well as the structural stability of the activity–aggression behavioural syndrome. Within individuals, both activity and aggression scores regressed towards the mean. Differential stability was maintained for activity, but not aggression. Structural stability was maintained; however, the activity–aggression correlation increased in squirrels that gained territories later in the season. These results suggest that personality undergoes some changes as animals mature, and that the ontogeny of personality can be linked to environmental changes.

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Figures

  • Within-individual changes in activity from juvenile to yearling life stages in the North American red squirrel. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/1568539x.

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  • Within-individual changes in activity from juvenile to yearling life stages in the North American red squirrel. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/1568539x.

    View in gallery
  • Mean-level changes in the activity (OF) and aggression (MIS) scores between juvenile and yearling stages in the North American red squirrel. The open bars correspond to juvenile measures, whereas the filled bars correspond to yearling measures. Error bars represent the SEM.

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