Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Repeatability of behaviour

Last lab meeting we discussed behavioural repeatability.
Now, I just found a recent review by Alison Bell, Shala Hankison and Kate Laskowski entitled "The repeatability of behaviour: a meta-analysis".


There is increasing interest in individual differences in animal behaviour. Recent research now suggests that an individual's behaviour, once considered to be plastic, may be more predictable than previously thought. Here, we take advantage of the large number of studies that have estimated the repeatability of various behaviours to evaluate whether there is good evidence for consistent individual differences in behaviour and to answer some outstanding questions about possible factors that can influence repeatability. Specifically, we use meta-analysis to ask whether different types of behaviours were more repeatable than others, and if repeatability estimates depended on taxa, sex, age, field versus laboratory, the number of measures and the interval between measures. Some of the overall patterns that were revealed by this analysis were that repeatability estimates were higher in the field compared to the laboratory and repeatability was higher when the interval between observations was short. Mate preference behaviour was one of the best studied but least repeatable behaviours. Our findings prompt new insights into the relative flexibility of different types of behaviour and offer suggestions for the design and analysis of future research.


1 comment:

  1. This seems very interesting. I was particularly struck by two findings:

    1. That repeatability for field observations seems to be higher than for estimates from the lab. This is somewhat counterintuitive, as we would actually expect the reverse ("all else being equal"). This is because in the lab, you could control "everything", such as confounding environmental variables, which would increase the between-individual component of variance explained (compared to the error variance).

    2. That mate preference behaviours were less repeatable than other types of behaviours is of course also perfectly consistent with the increasing recognition of plastic mate preferences (as opposed to strictly genetically determined) and a possible role for learned mate preferences (as you know I am interested in!).