While differences in individual personality are common in animal populations, understanding the ecological significance of variation has not yet been resolved. Evidence suggests that personality may influence learning and memory; a finding that could improve our understanding of the evolutionary processes that produce and maintain intraspecific behavioural heterogeneity. Here, we tested whether boldness, the most studied personality trait in fish, could predict learning ability in brook trout. After quantifying boldness, fish were trained to find a hidden food patch in a maze environment. Stable landmark cues were provided to indicate the location of food and, at the conclusion of training, cues were rearranged to test for learning. There was a negative relationship between boldness and learning as shy fish were increasingly more successful at navigating the maze and locating food during training trials compared to bold fish. In the altered testing environment, only shy fish continued using cues to search for food. Overall, the learning rate of bold fish was found to be lower than that of shy fish for several metrics suggesting that personality could have widespread effects on behaviour. Because learning can increase plasticity to environmental change, these results have significant implications for fish conservation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Behavioral Neuroscience