Animals typically exhibit adaptive behaviors that reduce their risk of predation. The term 'boldness' describes individual variation in the propensity to exhibit risk-reducing behavior and is the subject of much research attention. Predators should select against boldness, and this has been supported by empirical studies and behavioral ecology theory. We tested whether a standardized assay of three boldness-associated behaviors in wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) tadpoles predicted survival when faced with a predator. Tadpole behavior was assayed in an open field and then tadpoles were placed, in pairs, in an enclosure with a predator (newt or larval dragonfly). Survival did not depend on differences in measured boldness, and this result held when we accounted for interactions between different boldness behaviors and between behavior and size or predator identity. The absence of selection by predators against bolder tadpoles is counterintuitive and inconsistent with our understanding of the behavioral ecology of these animals. Two possible explanations are offered for this result. First, selection against boldness may be minimized by other phenotypic traits, such as escape ability. Alternatively, the potential lack of consistency between standardized boldness assays and natural encounters with predators may limit our capacity to study the evolution of boldness, cautioning against this approach. These results highlight the complexities of the relationships between behavioral traits and fitness and the challenges associated with their study.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Behavioral Neuroscience