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Unpredictability in food supply during early life influences boldness in fish

Chapman, Ben B.; Krause, Jens; Morrell, Lesley J.


Ben B. Chapman

Jens Krause


Behavioral variation has been documented both between and within populations in a variety of traits. Many of these behavioral traits are phenotypically plastic and are conditional on the early environment an animal experiences, yet despite this the role of the environment in generating variation in boldness is not well understood. Here we investigate the importance of early and recent experience of temporal unpredictability in food supply on the behavior of a species of freshwater fish, the Trinidadian guppy Poecilia reticulata. We predict that individuals that experience temporally unpredictable food supplies will engage in more risky behavior than those experiencing a predictable food supply and find evidence to support this. Fish with early experience of unpredictable environments are generally bolder and more exploratory than fish reared in predictable environments, exploring a significantly greater proportion of a novel maze and spending less time in a refuge during the trial. Individuals with early experience of unpredictability also spent significantly less time associating with conspecifics in a shoaling tendency assay, again suggesting that they are bolder than guppies reared in predictable conditions. These findings suggest that early experience is important in shaping exploratory anti shoaling behavior in this species and that unpredictability in early life can influence boldness in guppies.


Chapman, B. B., Krause, J., & Morrell, L. J. (2010). Unpredictability in food supply during early life influences boldness in fish. Behavioral ecology, 21(3), 501-506.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 30, 2010
Online Publication Date Feb 26, 2010
Publication Date Apr 26, 2010
Print ISSN 1045-2249
Electronic ISSN 1465-7279
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 3
Pages 501-506
Keywords Animal Science and Zoology; Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
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