Body size, but not age-at-maturation or context, affects the expression of predator-induced behavioural plasticity in female green swordtails (Xiphophorus hellerii)

Rachael A. DiSciullo, Alexandra L. Basolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Behavioural plasticity is a form of reversible phenotypic plasticity in which a genotype can express different behavioural phenotypes under different environmental conditions. Though an interest in among-individual differences in behavioural plasticity has flourished in recent decades, few studies have considered the effects of intrinsic factors, such as life-history or morphological traits, in tandem with extrinsic factors, such as presence of conspecifics in different social contexts, on predator-induced behavioural plasticity. Here, we present a study conducted with female green swordtail fishes, Xiphophorus hellerii, designed to assess the effects of age-at-maturation and body size on the expression of predator-induced behavioural plasticity in two social contexts: (a) female-only (two females) and (b) female-and-male (two females and a male). We further examined the extent to which individual expression of behavioural plasticity is consistent across these two social contexts. We found that in the presence of a predator, focal females were more timid in response to the stimulus and more tolerant of the non-focal female, and small females expressed this change from bold/less tolerant to timid/more tolerant to a greater degree than large females, regardless of age-at-maturation. However, individuals were not consistent in the degree or direction of plasticity expressed in the behaviours of interest between the female-only and the female-and-male context. Here, we show that within- and among-individual differences in behavioural expression are common but inconsistent. How intrinsic and extrinsic factors independently or together drive expression of plasticity in antipredator and agonistic behaviours is varied and warrants further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-332
Number of pages13
JournalEthology
Volume126
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Keywords

  • agonistic interaction
  • antipredator
  • consistency in plasticity
  • female–female
  • individual plasticity
  • predator presence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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