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To be so bold: boldness is repeatable and related to within individual behavioural variability in North Island robins

He, Ruchuan; Pagani-Núñez, Emilio; Chevallier, Clément; Barnett, Craig RA


Ruchuan He

Clément Chevallier

Craig RA Barnett


Behavioural research traditionally focusses on the mean responses of a group of individuals rather than variation in behaviour around the mean or among individuals. However, examining the variation in behaviour among and within individuals may also yield important insights into the evolution and maintenance of behaviour. Repeatability is the most commonly used measure of variability among individuals in behavioural research. However, there are other forms of variation within populations that have received less attention. One such measure is intraindividual variation in behaviour (IIV), which is a short-term fluctuation of within-individual behaviour. Such variation in behaviour might be important during interactions because it could decrease the ability of conspecific and heterospecific individuals to predict the behaviour of the subject, thus increasing the cost of the interaction. In this experiment, we made repeated measures of the latency of North Island robins to attack a prey in a novel situation (a form of boldness) and examined (i) repeatability of boldness (the propensity to take a risk), (ii) IIV of boldness, and (iii) whether there was a significant relationship between these two traits (a behavioural syndrome). We found that boldness was highly repeatable, that there were high levels of IIV in boldness, and that there was a negative relationship between boldness and IIV in boldness. This suggests that despite high levels of repeatability for this behaviour, there were also still significant differences in IIV among different individuals within the population. Moreover, bolder individuals had significantly less IIV in their boldness, which suggests that they were forming routines (which reduces behavioural variability) compared to shyer individuals. Our results definitively demonstrate that IIV itself varies across individuals and is linked with key behavioural traits, and we argue for the importance of future studies aimed at understanding its causes and consequences for behavioural interactions.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 24, 2017
Online Publication Date Apr 25, 2017
Publication Date 2017-07
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2022
Journal Behavioural processes
Print ISSN 0376-6357
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 140
Pages 144-149
Keywords Boldness, Intraindividual variability (IIV), North Island robins, Repeatability, Risk, Unpredictability
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