An in-field experimental test of pinniped behavioral types



There has been extensive recent interest in the concepts of behavioral types, behavioral syndromes, and personalities in nonhuman animal species. Evidence for behavioral types now exists from a wide range of taxa, from mollusks to mammals. However, marine mammals are poorly represented in this literature. Here, we describe an in-field experimental test of behavioral types in breeding gray seals, using a remotely controlled vehicle to deliver a standardized test stimulus to target individuals. We report on the design and implementation of this test and on the behavioral responses of individuals. Analysis of behavioral responses from both males and females revealed consistent individual differences across tests, suggesting that this is a practical and viable technique for determining individual variation in behavioral type in the field. Despite extensive literature on behavioral types, studies of behavioral types in wild populations remain rare. It is, therefore, important to develop ways to identify and quantify the existence of behavioral types in natural populations, because only by doing this, can we hope to ascertain the ecological and evolutionary relevance of behavioral types.