Behaviourally structured populations persist longer under harsh environmental conditions


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The factors and mechanisms that enhance population persistence in a fragmented habitat and/or under harsh environmental conditions are of significant current interest. We consider the dynamics of a population in an isolated habitat surrounded by an unfavourable environment subject to different behavioural responses between the individuals. We assume that there are two responses available: one of them is aggression in its extreme form, the other is its contrary when an individual takes flight in order to avoid any contact with its conspecific. We show that a behaviourally structured population consisting of individuals with fixed behavioural responses is intrinsically less prone to extinction under harsh environmental condition than a population where the individuals can ‘choose’ between the two given behaviours. We also show that, contrary to an intuitively expected negative impact of aggression on population persistence, the optimal conditions for population persistence are reached when a considerable proportion of the individuals exhibit aggressive behaviour.