Movement beyond the mean: decoupling sources of individual variation in brook trout movement across seasons

Shannon L. White, Jason Keagy, Sarah Batchelor, Julia Langlois, Natalie Thomas, Tyler Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Movement is an important eco-evolutionary process that can shape population and ecosystem structure and function. Accordingly, a firm understanding of species movement ecology is often foundational to effective management and conservation. However, despite movement being an inherently individual-level behavior, there remains a tendency to describe dispersal and migration patterns using simple population-level processes and effects. Overlooking within- and among-individual variation in movement risks incomplete understanding of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that govern dispersal dynamics and could potentially result in inadequate management of critical behavioral phenotypes. In this study, we monitored movement of over 100 brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and quantified the effect of individual-level traits, season, and their interactions to better understand factors that influence vagility. Our results suggest that movement was higher in fall than in summer, particularly for fish in poor condition. But we found no significant main effects for sex, providing no evidence for sex-biased dispersal. To better understand sources of individual variation, we also allowed for sex- and season-specific residual standard deviations. In doing so, we found that, on average, movement was more variable in fall compared to summer, and that females were more variable than males in vagility. Taken together, these results demonstrate how intrinsic, individual-level traits can interact with abiotic environmental conditions to determine movement. They also highlight the potential for simple explanations of movement ecology to overlook important traits that may help predict individual-level behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2205-2218
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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