Disruptive viability selection on adult exploratory behaviour in eastern chipmunks


Correspondence: Patrick Bergeron, Life Sciences Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755 USA. Tel.: +1 603 646 9916; e-mail: patrick.bergeron@dartmouth.edu


Heterogeneous forces of selection associated with fluctuating environments are recognized as important factors involved in the maintenance of inter-individual phenotypic variance within populations. Consistent behavioural differences over time and across situations (e.g. personality) are increasingly cited as examples of individual variation observed within populations. However, the suggestion that heterogeneous selective pressures target different animal personalities remains largely untested in the wild. In this 5-year study, we investigated the dynamics of viability selection on a personality trait, exploration, in a population of eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) experiencing substantial seasonal variations in weather conditions and food availability associated with masting trees. Contrary to our expectations, we found no evidence of fluctuating selection on exploration. Instead, we found strong disruptive viability selection on adult exploration behaviour, independent of seasonal variations. Individuals with either low or high exploration scores were almost twice as likely to survive over a 6-month period compared with individuals with intermediate scores. We found no evidence of viability selection on juvenile exploration. Our results highlight that disruptive selection might play an important role in the maintenance of phenotypic variance of wild populations through its effect on different personality types across temporally varying environmental conditions.