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Keywords:

  • behavioural strategies;
  • dispersal;
  • house mouse;
  • Morris water task;
  • Mus musculus domesticus;
  • Mus musculus musculus;
  • stress

Numerous studies have shown an association between aggressiveness and several other behavioural traits. For example, more aggressive animals were bold and active explorers tending to form persistent routines whereas less aggressive animals were shy, careful but more flexible. While the former are thought to be more successful under stable conditions the latter should have advantages in more dynamic situations. These differences can apply not only to individuals but also to populations, species or groups of species with important implications to species distributions and speciation rates. Here we utilized the Morris water task (MWT) to investigate how two subspecies, Mus musculus musculus and M. m. domesticus, known to differ in aggressiveness, cope with stressful situations. We found that less aggressive musculus males performed significantly better in solving the MWT than more aggressive domesticus males. This suggests that M. m. musculus is more flexible and could be more successful under stressful and/or dynamic situations typical of dispersal bouts. It seems plausible that this difference may have had an influence on the secondary contact between musculus and domesticus populations in the past and perhaps still can affect the dynamics of the European hybrid zone between the subspecies. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 113, 310–319.