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Influence of prior exposure to females on behavioral consistency in male Siamese fighting fish

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Consistent individual differences, often referred to as behavioral syndromes, are characterized by individuals behaving in a consistent, predictable manner while differing from others. This phenomenon appears to conflict with the need to alter behavior based on experience or changes in the environment. It is possible that individuals will even exhibit ‘consistent flexibility’ responding in the same manner each time they encounter a particular type of change or experience. However, few studies have examined how recent experiences might affect patterns of consistency and flexibility. Male Siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens, exhibit consistent individual differences when presented with a male and female simultaneously as well as flexibility as these responses vary as a function of reproductive status. This study examined how recent experience with a female affects behavior in the presence of conflicting stimuli in the form of dummy male and female conspecifics. Males received multiple trials before exposure to a female as well as after they interacted with a live female conspecific. Overall rate of behavior was unaffected by exposure to a female. Males did not alter their relative level of responses to either dummy after experience with the female, as indicated by positive correlations before and after exposure. Consistent individual differences for all female-directed behaviors increased after exposure to the female, as shown by higher repeatability scores. Consistency for male-directed behaviors was more resistant to experience. Finally, some males changed their behavioral strategy, suggesting males differ in their levels of behavioral flexibility. This has implications for our understanding of how experience affects levels of behavioral consistency and flexibility in both courtship and aggressive situations.


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Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Biology, University of New England, Biddeford, ME, USA; 2: 2Department of Psychology, University of New England, Biddeford, ME, USA


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