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Keywords:

  • Activity;
  • aggressiveness;
  • behavioural syndromes;
  • boldness;
  • fitness;
  • natural selection;
  • personality traits;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • state-dependent behaviour;
  • survival

Abstract

Individuals often show consistent behavioural differences where behaviours can form integrated units across functionally different contexts. However, the factors causing and maintaining behavioural syndromes in natural populations remain poorly understood. In this study, we provide evidence for the emergence of a behavioural syndrome during the first months of life in wild brown trout (Salmo trutta). Behavioural traits of trout were scored before and after a 2-month interval covering a major survival bottleneck, whereupon the consistency and covariance of behaviours were analysed. We found that selection favoured individuals with high activity levels in an open-field context, a personality trait consistent throughout the duration of the experiment. In addition, a behavioural syndrome emerged over the 2 months in the wild, linking activity to aggressiveness and exploration tendency. These novel results suggest that behavioural syndromes can emerge rapidly in nature from interaction between natural selection and behavioural plasticity affecting single behaviours.