Consistency in Context-specific Measures of Shyness and Boldness in Rainbow Trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss


Alexander D. M. Wilson, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada. E-mail:


Shyness and boldness has been considered a fundamental axis of human behavioural variation. At the extreme ends of this behavioural continuum subjects vary from being bold and assertive to shy and timid. Analogous patterns of individual variation have been noted in a number of species including fish. There has been debate on the nature of this continuum as to whether it depends on context. That is, whether it is domain-general (as in humans), or context-specific. The purpose of our study was to test if shyness and boldness depends on context in rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss and to this end we estimated boldness in five different situations. Our data provide evidence of a shy–bold behavioural syndrome in rainbow trout. Bold trout tended to be bold in four situations when the context was similar (when the context concerned foraging). However, in a different context, exploring a swim flume, the ranking was entirely different. We suggest that shyness and boldness depends on context in rainbow trout.