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Positive relationship between risk-taking behaviour and aggression in subordinate but not dominant males of a Cuban poeciliid fish

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Studies of integrated phenotypes sometimes reveal correlations between mating effort, favoured by sexual selection, and risk-taking, favoured by survival selection. We used Girardinus metallicus to examine the relationship between rank order of mating effort and risk-taking. We measured risk-taking in a novel environment containing a predator. We then paired males, using aggression to assign dominant or subordinate status, and examined mating behaviour. Dominant males showed higher mating effort, but did not exhibit any relationship between risk-taking and mating effort. Subordinate males exhibited a cross-context correlation, as males were either more willing to take risks and aggressive or more hesitant to take risks and nonaggressive. Less risk-averse, aggressive subordinate males may gain fitness advantages in a more realistic dominance hierarchy, despite being outranked by the rival with which they were paired in our study. Results highlight intraspecific variation in behavioural correlations and the importance of social environment in shaping integrated phenotypes.

Affiliations: 1: aBiology Department, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1S 5B6 ; 2: bBiological Sciences Department, California Polytechnic State University, 1 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0401, USA

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