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The influence of experience on risk taking: results from a common-garden experiment on populations of Eurasian perch

Gustav Hellström and Carin Magnhagen
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Vol. 65, No. 10 (October 2011), pp. 1917-1926
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41414656
Page Count: 10
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The influence of experience on risk taking: results from a common-garden experiment on populations of Eurasian perch
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Abstract

Predation is often thought of as an unforgiving and strong selective force, quickly selecting against maladaptive behaviour in the prey. It is argued that experience is likely to have low influence on the phenotypic response to predation, as failing to react correctly to a predator may mean death to the prey and no second chance to leam and correct the behaviour. Individuals from different populations of Eurasian perch are known to differ in risk-taking behaviour. Variation in predation pressure has been suggested as a key factor causing these differences, but little is known about the underlying mechanism by which predation generates risk-taking phenotypes in perch. We compared the degree of boldness between two natural populations of Eurasian perch, living under different predation regimes, and the same populations hatched and reared under identical conditions, free from prédation. By this common-garden approach, we sought to investigate patterns in the influence of inheritance and experience on boldness phenotype. The wild fish differed in risk taking, with fish from the low predation-risk population acting bolder than fish from the high-risk environment. In the reared fish, both populations behaved equally bold. Only the fish originating from the high predation population showed different behaviour when comparing wild and reared ecotypes. Our results suggest that experience has an important impact on the response to predators and that geographic variation in risk taking between populations of Eurasian perch to a high degree is shaped by adjustments to the current environment. Habituation had an effect of risk-taking behaviour over the experimental period, but consistent differences between individuals were also found. Furthermore, we also show, by the estimation of variance components, that the behaviour we observe is affected by a range of random effects, such as aquaria and group membership, that in concert shapes the behaviour of an individual perch.

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