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Keywords:

  • Animal model;
  • Bayesian environment;
  • individual behavioral differences;
  • personality;
  • quantitative genetics;
  • wandering albatross

Abstract

Animal personalities, composed of axes of consistent individual behaviors, are widely reported and can have important fitness consequences. However, despite theoretical predictions that life-history trade-offs may cause and maintain personality differences, our understanding of the evolutionary ecology of personality remains poor, especially in long-lived species where trade-offs and senescence have been shown to be stronger. Furthermore, although much theoretical and empirical work assumes selection shapes variation in personalities, studies exploring the genetic underpinnings of personality traits are rare. Here we study one standard axis of personality, the shy–bold continuum, in a long-lived marine species, the wandering albatross from Possession Island, Crozet, by measuring the behavioral response to a human approach. Using generalized linear mixed models in a Bayesian framework, we show that boldness is highly repeatable and heritable. We also find strong differences in boldness between breeding colonies, which vary in size and density, suggesting birds are shyer in more dense colonies. These results demonstrate that in this seabird population, boldness is both heritable and repeatable and highlights the potential for ecological and evolutionary processes to shape personality traits in species with varying life-history strategies.