Evolution of Animal Personalities

Seems like I’m living up to the “Evolution” part of my blogs name lately. Here is one more interesting evolution study. Science Daily is reporting on a study concerning the evolution of personalities in animals. As Science Daily points out:

Animals as diverse as spiders, mice and squids appear to have personalities. Personality differences have been described in more than 60 species, including primates, rodents, birds, fish, insects and mollusks.

The research was based on a few simple premises:

They begin with two basic observations. First, variation in personalities is often structured according to differences in the overall willingness to take risks. Second, individuals are often confronted with a trade-off between current and future reproduction: the more an individual currently invests in reproduction, the less resources are left to invest in future opportunities, and vice versa.
Using a mathematical model the authors demonstrate that this fundamental trade-off can give rise to populations where some individuals put more emphasis on future reproduction than others. Individuals who invest in future reproductive success evolve to be consistently risk-averse in different behavioral contexts (e.g. encounters with predators and aggressive interactions), whereas individuals who put emphasis on current reproductive success evolve a more risk-prone personality.

The research is being published in Nature.

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2 Responses

  1. Are these criteria adequate descriptions of “Personality” and is one to assume that these traits are genetic and how is that to be differentiated from conditioned or learned responses?

  2. I would hardly use the term “personality” as a term to define how organisms achieve reproductive success. Those things can easily be explained as Pavlovian responses to a stimulus. A more accurate judgement of whether or not those groups have personalities would be to put them in novel situations where conditioning won’t apply. On a more serious note, I hope they find that fish lack personalities. I like eating them and I’d feel bad if I ate one who had a good personality!

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