Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 1449–1458
Trade-offs between behavioural traits promoting high life-history productivity and mortality may fuel the evolution of animal personalities. We propose that parasites, including pathogens, impose fitness costs comparable to those from predators, and influence the adaptiveness of personality traits associated with productivity (PAPs). Whether personality traits are adaptive or not may also depend on individual immunological capacity. We illustrate this using a conceptual example in which the optimal level of PAPs depends on predation, parasitism and host compensation (resistance and tolerance) of parasitism’s negative effects. We assert that inherent differences in host immune function can produce positive feedback loops between resource intake and compensation of parasitism’s costs, thereby providing variation underlying the evolution of stable personalities. Our approach acknowledges the condition dependence of immune function and co-evolutionary dynamics between hosts and parasites.