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Is vigilance a personality trait? Plasticity is key alongside some contextual consistency

Mettke-Hofmann, C (2022) Is vigilance a personality trait? Plasticity is key alongside some contextual consistency. PLoS One, 17 (12). ISSN 1932-6203

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Open Access URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0279066 (Published version)


Animals regularly scan their environment for predators and to monitor conspecifics. However, individuals in a group seem to differ in their vigilance linked to age, sex or state with recent links made to personality. The aims of the study were to investigate whether a) individuals differ consistently in their vigilance, b) vigilance is linked to other personality traits and c) other factors affect vigilance in the colour polymorphic Gouldian finch. Birds were tested in same (red-headed or black-headed) or mixed head colour morph same sex pairs in four contexts (novel environment, familiar environment, two changed environments). Vigilance was measured as horizontal head movements. Vigilance showed contextual consistency but no long-term temporal consistency over a year. Head movements were only weakly linked to other personality traits indicative of a risk-reward trade-off with more explorative individuals being less vigilant. Vigilance was highly plastic across situations and affected by group composition. Mixed head colour morph pairs made more head movements, potentially linked to higher social vigilance. Results indicate that vigilance is a highly plastic trait affected by personality rather than a personality trait on its own, which allows adapting vigilance to different situations.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: coping style; exploration; neophilia; neophobia; social vigilance; General Science & Technology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2022 11:51
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2022 11:51
DOI or ID number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279066
Editors: Lutermann, Heike
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/18429
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