Bodil Elmhagen

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Abstract

The influence of spatiotemporal conditions and personality on survival in reintroductions – evolutionary implications

Personality exists in non-human animals and can impact fitness. There is, however, a shortage of empirical studies in certain areas within the field, and fundamental evolutionary theory on personality remains largely untested. For example, little is known on how variation in personality is maintained over evolutionary time. Theory suggests that fluctuating selection pressures due to spatiotemporal variation in conditions, e.g. food availability, is a possible mechanism and a few studies have shown that the success of different personality types varies with spatiotemporal conditions. However, it remains unknown whether different mechanisms can maintain personality within a species. Here we use a reintroduction programme for the critically endangered European mink (Mustela lutreola) to test whether multiple personality trait domains (boldness, exploration and sociability) affected survival in two different years and islands. This was done through pre-release personality tests and post-release radio-tracking monitoring. Survival was positively correlated with boldness, whereas the relationship with exploration was either negative or positive depending on year/island. The results show a complex relationship between personality and survival and suggest that exploration can be maintained over evolutionary time via spatiotemporal variation in conditions. However, in contrast to exploration, boldness did not vary spatiotemporally and sociability had no impact on survival. This indicates that different personality trait domains might be maintained by different mechanisms. To date, personality has been studied primarily within behavioural sciences, but through empirical findings we highlight the importance of personality also in ecology and conservation biology.

Reference
Haage M, Maran T, Bergvall UA, Elmhagen B, Angerbjörn A (2017) The influence of spatiotemporal conditions and personality on survival in reintroductions – evolutionary implications. Oecologia 183: 45-56xLink to journal (pdf download)

 
   

 

 

European mink (Mustela lutreola) at the conservation breeding facility at Tallinn Zoological Gardens in Estonia
 
European mink during personality testing - behaviour in a novel environment