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“Early birds” take it easy: diurnal timing is correlated with overall level in activity of zebrafish larvae

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Individual animals show consistent differences in behavioural responses when coping with environmental challenges. Consistency over time and across context in a behavioural trait is an indication for animal personality. Chronotypes refer to consistent inter-individual differences in diurnal rhythmicity driven by underlying variation in circadian clock processes. Personality traits and chronotype may relate to a single behavioural syndrome, but few studies have investigated such a link explicitly. Here, we explored zebrafish larvae for the presence of consistency in activity levels and timing, and their correlation with and without external cues (Zeitgeber: light–dark cycle versus constant light). We found individual consistency in activity level and timing, and their correlation independent of the presence of Zeitgeber: early-active individuals were less active overall than late-active individuals. Our study suggests a link between personality and chronotype and provides new insights into the early development of individual variation in behavioural tendencies of zebrafish.

Affiliations: 1: Institute Biology Leiden, Sylvius Laboratory, Leiden University, Sylviusweg 72, 2333 BE Leiden, The Netherlands

*Corresponding author’s e-mail address:

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