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Is boldness a resource-holding potential trait? Fighting prowess and changes in startle response in the sea anemone, Actinia equina

Rudin, Fabian S., Briffa, Mark
Proceedings 2012 v.279 no.1735 pp. 1904-1910
animals, evolution, fighting (behavior), physiological state
Contest theory predicts the evolution of a stable mixture of different strategies for fighting. Here, we investigate the possibility that stable between-individual differences in startle-response durations influence fighting ability or ‘resource-holding potential’ (RHP) in the beadlet sea anemone, Actinia equina. Both winners and losers showed significant repeatability of pre-fight startle-response durations but mean pre-fight startle-response durations were greater for eventual losers than for eventual winners, indicating that RHP varies with boldness. In particular, individuals with short startle responses inflicted more attacks on their opponent. Both repeatability and mean-level responses were changed by the experience of fighting, and these changes varied with outcome. In losers, repeatability was disrupted to a greater extent and the mean startle-response durations were subject to a greater increase than in winners. Thus, following a fight, this behavioural correlate of RHP behaves in a way similar to post-fight changes in physiological status, which can also vary between winners and losers. Understanding the links between aggression and boldness therefore has the potential to enhance our understanding of both the evolution of animal personality and the ‘winner and loser effects’ of post-fight changes in RHP.