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Personality and plasticity: consistent responses within-, but not across-temperature situations in crabs

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image of Behaviour

Recent research suggests that repeated assays of behaviour, conducted both within and across situations, could reveal important insights into two traditionally distinct areas of study: animal personality and individual differences in behavioural plasticity. However, at present relatively few studies present such data, and few consider how changing abiotic conditions affect behavioural plasticity. Individual differences in metabolic rate have been suggested as a proximate mechanism promoting personality, leading one to speculate that individual differences in metabolic sensitivity to temperature may affect behavioural responses in ectotherms. At present, only one study (out of two) has tested for and shown individual differences in behavioural responses to temperature. Here, we repeatedly assayed the behaviour of a marine crab across a narrow range of temperatures to test for individual differences in responses to temperature. We observed large inter-individual differences in behaviour that were consistent over time at a given temperature (evidence for personality), and individual differences in responses to temperature (evidence for plasticity). This study adds to the very scant literature on ectotherm behavioural sensitivity to temperature, and suggests the phenomenon might be widespread. We speculate about the role of metabolism as a proximate mechanism that might explain these individual differences in plasticity and make suggestions for future research to test this hypothesis.

Affiliations: 1: aCentre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University, 75 Pigdons Road, Waurn Ponds, VIC 3216, Australia; 2: bPlant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, School of the Environment University of Technology, Sydney, P.O. Box 123, Broadway, NSW, 2007 Australia


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