5 years ago

Human disturbance affects personality development in a wild carnivore

Human activity can dramatically affect personality traits in birds and small mammals. However, we know very little about how anthropogenic disturbance shapes personality in mammalian carnivores, and whether the personality traits that may be affected have fitness consequences in human-dominated landscapes. We adapted standard experiments commonly used to assess personality in captive animals to compare three personality traits in 72 wild juvenile spotted hyaenas, Crocuta crocuta, living either in areas heavily disturbed by human activity or in areas with low levels of disturbance. We examined neophobia, defined as the tendency to avoid unfamiliar things, exploration, defined as the number of different ways an individual interacts with an object, and boldness, defined as an individual's tendency to take risks. To assess neophobia and exploration, we measured individuals' responses to a novel object, and to assess boldness, we measured the hyaenas' propensity to enter a wire-mesh box to obtain food. Juvenile spotted hyaenas living in low-disturbance areas were significantly more neophobic and less exploratory than individuals living in high-disturbance areas. This is consistent with results obtained with birds and small mammals; however, unlike these other taxa, hyaenas living in low-disturbance areas were bolder than individuals living in high-disturbance areas. The expression of some of these personality traits was also affected by the subject's social rank and the presence of a littermate, but not by subject age or sex. Of the three traits, only boldness predicted survival to adulthood: less bold individuals were significantly more likely to survive than bolder individuals, in both high-disturbance and low-disturbance habitats. We propose that behavioural or physiological maternal effects may be shaping offspring temperament differences related to disturbance.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0003347217302725

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