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Unraveling behavioral and pace-of-life syndromes in a reduced parasite and predation pressure context: personality and survival of the Barbary ground squirrel

Piquet, Julien C., López-Darias, Marta, van der Marel, Annemarie, Nogales, Manuel, Waterman, Jane
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2018 v.72 no.9 pp. 147
Sciuridae, animals, antipredatory behavior, body condition, ectoparasites, invasive species, life history, models, parasite load, parasitism, physiology, predation
Personality traits overlap in behavioral syndromes that are assumed to be related to physiology and life history traits, shaping pace-of-life syndromes. Boldness and explorative behavior are frequently associated with higher parasite loads, increased resource acquisition, less efficient antipredator behavior, and reduced survival (e.g., through predation). We explored how personality is related to these biological traits using an invasive species—Atlantoxerus getulus in Fuerteventura island—as a model system with reduced parasitism and low predation pressure. We used breath rate during handling, open field tests, and escape trials to test for the existence of interindividual differences in boldness, explorative behavior, and escape speed, respectively. We also tested whether the personality traits were related and formed behavioral syndromes in A. getulus. At the same time, we explored how personality is related to ectoparasite load, body condition, and survival in the species. We found strong between-individual differences in breath rate, readiness to get in the open field arena, and escape speed. We found a behavioral syndrome, linking open field entrance and escape speed, in A. getulus. However, personality was not related to parasite load or body condition and survival was higher for bolder individuals. As a whole, our results suggest reduced parasites and predator pressures on Fuerteventura may have potentially neutralized the typical drawbacks of a fast pace-of-life in the introduced population of A. getulus. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Research on the interactions of animal personality with other ecological and evolutionary factors, such as parasitism and selection gradients, has yielded some intriguing perspectives about many ecological and evolutionary processes. However, our understanding of the eco-evolutionary consequences of animal personality and how it interacts with other relevant biological processes is still limited. Invasive species often experience specific ecological conditions that can allow testing of the general assumptions related to animal personality. The present contribution explores if and how personality traits are related to key ecological and evolutionary factors, such as parasitism and survival, in the context of an invasive population subjected to reduced parasite and predation pressure. Unlike other studies conducted under different ecological contexts, our results suggest Barbary ground squirrels from the assessed population with fast pace-of-life syndromes have higher survival chances than their counterparts.