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Bigger babies are bolder: effects of body size on personality of hatchling snakes

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An animal’s susceptibility to risk may be partly dependent on its body size. But are larger individuals bolder? We assessed this question by measuring time to emerge from a shelter in repeated trials on hatchling keelback snakes (Tropidonophis mairii). Estimates of repeatability of emergence times suggested they measure some underlying personality dimension related to boldness. Larger hatchlings emerged from shelter sooner than small ones. Hatchling mass of keelbacks is substantially influenced both by maternal phenotype and by incubation conditions. Given the environmental basis of much of the variation in offspring size, the size-boldness association may reflect a facultative ability to adjust behavioural tactics to body size, as well as innate differences in personality traits between large versus small hatchlings. The link between size and boldness suggests that the survival advantage of larger offspring size in this population may be driven by snake behaviour as well as morphology.

Affiliations: 1: aDepartment of Environmental and Health Studies, Telemark University College, P.O. Box 203, N-3901 Porsgrunn, Norway; 2: bSchool of Life and Environmental Sciences, Heydon-Laurence Building A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia


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