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Keywords:

  • Animal personalities;
  • behavioural syndromes;
  • dispersal;
  • distribution and abundance;
  • ecological invasions;
  • environmental change;
  • intraspecific variation;
  • population dynamics;
  • spatial ecology;
  • species interactions

Ecology Letters (2012)

Abstract

Interspecific trait variation has long served as a conceptual foundation for our understanding of ecological patterns and dynamics. In particular, ecologists recognise the important role that animal behaviour plays in shaping ecological processes. An emerging area of interest in animal behaviour, the study of behavioural syndromes (animal personalities) considers how limited behavioural plasticity, as well as behavioural correlations affects an individual’s fitness in diverse ecological contexts. In this article we explore how insights from the concept and study of behavioural syndromes provide fresh understanding of major issues in population ecology. We identify several general mechanisms for how population ecology phenomena can be influenced by a species or population’s average behavioural type, by within-species variation in behavioural type, or by behavioural correlations across time or across ecological contexts. We note, in particular, the importance of behavioural type-dependent dispersal in spatial ecology. We then review recent literature and provide new syntheses for how these general mechanisms produce novel insights on five major issues in population ecology: (1) limits to species’ distribution and abundance; (2) species interactions; (3) population dynamics; (4) relative responses to human-induced rapid environmental change; and (5) ecological invasions.