Get access

Individual differences in the behavioural responses of meadow voles to an unfamiliar environment are not correlated with variation in resting metabolic rate


  • Editor: Virginia Hayssen

Craig K. R. Willis, Department of Biology and Centre for Forest Interdisciplinary Research (C-FIR), University of Winnipeg, 515 Portage Ave, Winnipeg, MB, R3B 2E9 Canada. Tel: +204 786 9433; Fax: +204 774 2401


Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is highly variable between individuals within a single species and the relationship between body mass and RMR does not wholly explain this variability. One factor that could account for a portion of the residual variation is animal personality or consistent individual differences (CIDs) in behaviour, but no study has examined this relationship in a free-living population of mammals. In this paper, we test for a relationship between RMR and CIDs in activity in live-trapped meadow voles Microtus pennsylvanicus after controlling for the effect of body mass. We quantified the activity levels of voles both in an unfamiliar environment and for the first 2 min in the metabolic apparatus, and then measured RMR using open-flow respirometry. As expected, there was a linear relationship between RMR and body mass, and we found strong evidence for repeatable differences in activity levels between individuals. However, contrary to the hypothesis, we did not identify a significant correlation between CIDs in behaviour and RMR after controlling for body mass. Our results suggest that, at least within species, higher activity levels may not require a greater investment in energetically demanding tissues or increased capacity for processing of energy. Alternatively, if a relationship exists, our inability to detect it may reflect a weak behavioural signal in noisy RMR data that are influenced by many factors. Our results could also reflect an artefact of individual responses to stress or a sampling bias towards more exploratory individuals in animals captured by live-trapping.

Get access to the full text of this article