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How the dynamics of personality variation, food intake and social interactions determine anti-predator escape

Project description

Exploring the food-mortality trade-off

How does the relationship between boldness (the extent to which animals take risks) and food intake shape anti-predator escape responses? The EU-funded DynFish project will answer this question, shedding light on how the mechanisms of the food-mortality trade-off generate personality variation in boldness. Specifically, the project will conduct experimental work on individuals and groups of three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Individuals and groups will be tested in a set-up to precisely control the behaviour of a predator model and study how escape responses vary with individual boldness, food intake and social interactions. The project will also conduct computer simulations to characterise the food-mortality trade-off. Additionally, it will explore the mechanisms underlying individual differences in boldness, and provide new insights into the evolution and maintenance of personality variation, which is common in social species.

Objective

Escape responses (reaction to a threatening stimulus) are widespread in the animal kingdom and are critical for survival in many species. In recent years, it has become apparent that individuals differ consistently from one another in their behaviour, often called ‘animal personality variation’. Boldness refers to the extent to which animals take risks, and is a major personality trait that has important ecological and evolutionary implications. While it is widely accepted that the trade-off between exposure to predation risk and the benefit gained from it (e.g. greater access to food) generates personality variation in boldness, how and why bolder individuals are more likely to be preyed upon remain to be investigated. Furthermore, personality variation is also common in social species. Despite the extensive research on collective vigilance, personality variation has rarely been considered in this context.

In this project, I will study how the relationship between boldness and food intake shapes anti-predator escape responses, shedding light on how the mechanisms of the food-mortality trade-off generate personality variation in boldness. For this purpose, I will first conduct experimental work on individuals and groups of three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Individuals and groups will be tested in a setup allowing me to precisely control the behaviour of a predator model and study how escape responses vary with individual boldness, food intake and social interactions. Second, I will couple this experimental work with computer simulations to 1) fully characterise the food-mortality trade-off, 2) elucidate the mechanisms underlying individual differences in boldness, and 3) give new insights into the evolution and maintenance of personality variation under predation risk in different ecological conditions.

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL
Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
Address
BEACON HOUSE QUEENS ROAD
BS8 1QU Bristol
United Kingdom

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Region
South West (England) Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area Bristol, City of
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 212 933,76