Fitness consequences of personality: a meta-analysis

Brian R. Smith; Daniel T. Blumstein
March 2008
Behavioral Ecology;Mar2008, Vol. 19 Issue 2, p448
Academic Journal
The study of nonhuman personality capitalizes on the fact that individuals of many species behave in predictable, variable, and quantifiable ways. Although a few empirical studies have examined the ultimate consequences of personality differences, there has been no synthesis of results. We conducted a formal meta-analysis of published studies reporting fitness consequences of single personality dimensions to identify general trends across species. We found bolder individuals had increased reproductive success, particularly in males, but incurred a survival cost, thus, supporting the hypothesis that variation in boldness was maintained due to a “trade-off” in fitness consequences across contexts. Potential mechanisms maintaining variation in exploration and aggression are not as clear. Exploration had a positive effect only on survival, whereas aggression had a positive effect on both reproductive success and, not significantly, on survival. Such results would suggest that selection is driving populations to become more explorative and aggressive. However, limitations in meta-analytic techniques preclude us from testing for the effects of fluctuating environmental conditions or other forms of selection on these dimensions. Results do, however, provide evidence for general relationships between personality and fitness, and we provide a framework for future studies to follow in the hopes of spurring more in-depth, long-term research into the evolutionary mechanisms maintaining variation in personality dimensions and overall behavioral syndromes. We conclude with a discussion on how understanding and managing personality traits may play a key role in the captive breeding and recovery programs of endangered species.


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