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Individual foraging preferences are linked to innovativeness and personality in the great tit

Serrano-Davies, Eva, O’Shea, William, Quinn, John L.
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2017 v.71 no.11 pp. 161
Parus major, birds, correlation, energy intake, food choices, food intake, foraging, habitats, life history, peanuts, problem solving, woodlands
Personality and innovativeness are predicted to drive important functional behaviours that can influence life history strategies within populations. For example, the reactive-proactive personality axis is thought to reflect the ‘pace of life’ syndrome and predicts correlation with foraging; empirical evidence also suggests a positive correlation with routine-like behaviour. Similarly, the adaptive innovation hypothesis predicts that innovators may have a higher food intake when novel foraging opportunities arise, and that they should have a more diverse range of foraging tactics. Experimental tests of these hypotheses are limited. We conducted standardized assays of exploratory behaviour (an index of the reactive-proactive axis) and innovative problem-solving performance on wild-captured great tits, Parus major, temporarily brought into captivity from different woodland types. To test for dietary preferences, birds were provided with three different types of food, and their daily energy intake measured. We found no evidence of a significant relationship between exploratory behaviour and the amount of calories ingested. However, fast-exploring great tits consumed a higher proportion of sunflower seeds, while slower individuals preferred peanuts. Problem-solving performance was positively correlated with energy intake but not food preference. Peanuts accounted for a larger proportion of total daily energy intake for coniferous birds, which also lost more weight on average. Our results illustrate that a complex array of factors can determine foraging behaviour and success, including personality, innovativeness, state variables, time, and habitat origin. This highlights the challenge of explaining how selection acts on foraging performance over time. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Experimental tests assessing how personality and innovativeness drive functional behaviour within populations are limited. We studied these links by means of exploratory behaviour and innovative problem-solving performance tests in relation to food preference and energy intake in wild-captured great tits, Parus major, from two different habitats. Personality was related to dietary preference (fast explorers consumed a higher proportion of sunflower seeds, while slower individuals preferred peanuts), and problem-solving was related to energy intake. Moreover, we found differential diet selection between coniferous and deciduous birds. Our results show that foraging behaviour and body mass are driven by multiple factors, including personality, innovativeness, and habitat origin.