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Studying behavioural variation in salmonids from an ecological perspective: observations questions methodological considerations

Johnsson, Jörgen I., Näslund, Joacim
Reviews in fish biology and fisheries 2018 v.28 no.4 pp. 795-823
Salmonidae, animal behavior, ecology, fish, laboratory experimentation, monitoring
Salmonid fish are an ecologically important and extensively studied group of fish which concern many interest groups in our society. The aim of this paper is to discuss and suggest solutions to the multifaceted problems associated with studying behavioural variation in salmonids, with focus on designing behavioural studies that are ecologically relevant. Many of the general problems and solutions discussed can be applied to other animals as well. First, the importance of asking clear questions when conceiving behavioural studies is addressed, using Tinbergen’s four questions and associated theories as stepping stones towards generating testable hypotheses about behavioural variation. We then address a range of methodological challenges encountered when attempting to study behavioural variation in salmonids and suggest solutions to overcome these problems. A range of approaches is discussed, from highly controllable laboratory experiments to monitoring studies of behaviour in the wild. The importance of combining lab- and field approaches to evaluate the ecological relevance of behavioural variation is highlighted. Finally, we suggest a general framework using a multi-faceted research approach to address questions about the behavioural ecology of salmonids (and other animals) so that knowledge can progress, and the ecological relevance of behavioural studies can be validated.