Heritable and experiential effects on boldness in a tropical poeciliid

Culum Brown, Fiona Burgess, Victoria A. Braithwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Consistent differences in human behaviour are often explained with reference to personality traits. Recent evidence suggests that similar traits are widespread across the entire animal kingdom and that they may have substantial fitness consequences. One of the major components of personality is the shyness-boldness continuum. Little is known about the relative contributions of genes and the environment in the development of boldness in wild animal populations. Here, we bred wild-caught fish (Brachyraphis episcopi) collected from regions of high- and low-predation pressure, reared their offspring in the laboratory under varying conditions and tested boldness utilising an open-field paradigm. First-generation laboratory-reared fish showed similar behaviour to their wild parents suggesting that boldness has a heritable component. In addition, repeated chasing with a net increased boldness in both high- and low-predation offspring, showing that boldness is also heavily influenced by life experiences. Differences between males and females were also sustained in the laboratory-reared generation indicating that sex differences in boldness are also heritable. We discuss these results with reference to the potential underlying genetic and hormonal mechanisms as well as the environmental influences that may be responsible for expression of boldness in wild animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-243
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Heritable and experiential effects on boldness in a tropical poeciliid'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this