Evolutionary Ecology

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Dr. Ariane Mutzel

PhD finished 05.12.2013

Research Project

Behavioural mechanisms underpinning personality-related fitness

Animals constantly have to respond to changes in physical and social components of the environment. Whereas behavioural plasticity has long been assumed to represent an adaptive response to such environmental changes, accumulating evidence suggests that individuals do not show the full range of behavioural trait values present in their population: individuals often differ consistently in their behaviour over a range of environmental contexts. Such consistent individual differences in behaviour are referred to as “animal personalities” and personality traits that are correlated are commonly referred to as “behavioural syndromes”. Despite rapidly accumulating evidence that an animal’s personality affects its fitness, little is known on how personality variation might be translated into fitness. Parental care is likely to play an important role in the mechanistic pathway linking personality and fitness. My project therefore aims to 1) quantify between individual differences in personality traits and investigate the structure of potential behavioural syndromes; 2) quantify different aspects of parental care, e.g. provisioning effort, responsiveness to chick demand and cooperation; 3) test how personality differences relate to different components of parental care and 4) investigate whether differences in provisioning behaviour that are related to personality can explain variation in reproductive success and adult survival. My study is carried out in nestbox populations of two closely related hole-nesting passerines, the Blue tit, Cyanistes caerulaeus, and the Great tit, Parus major.