Boldness and Reproductive Fitness Correlates in the Eastern Mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki


Alexander D. M. Wilson, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada.


Animals are known to exhibit ‘personality’; that is, individual differences in behaviour that are consistent across time and/or situations. One axis of personality of particular importance for behavioural ecology is boldness, which can be defined as the tendency of an individual to take risks. The relationship between individual personality and fitness correlates, particularly those involved in reproduction, remains largely unexplored. In the current study, we used female Eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) to ascertain whether certain reproductive traits (e.g. stage of pregnancy, fecundity) are correlated with individual personality in two wild populations in New South Wales, Australia. To quantitatively assess this relationship, we tested individual fish for their level of boldness, as measured by their latency to exit a refuge and tendency to shoal in a novel environment. We also quantified individual differences in general activity and tendency to swim near the water surface and substratum. For both populations taken together, bolder individuals tended to be smaller, relatively less fecund (when taking body size into account), and spent more time near the water surface than near the substratum compared with timid individuals. Individual boldness was not correlated with either general activity or stage of pregnancy. To our knowledge, our study characterizes for the first time a relationship between an individual personality trait (boldness) and a reproductive fitness correlate (fecundity) in fishes.