Posted by Jessica Abbot on behalf of Alexander Hegg
Title: Studying personality variation in invertebrates: why bother?
Abstract: Research on animal personality variation has been burgeoning in the last 20 years but surprisingly few studies have investigated personalities in invertebrate species although they make up 98% of all animal species. Such lack of invertebrate studies might be due to a traditional belief that invertebrates are just ‘minirobots’. Lately, studies highlighting personality differences in a range of invertebrate species have challenged this idea. However, the number of invertebrate species investigated still contrasts markedly with the effort that has been made studying vertebrates, which represent only a single subphylum. We describe how investigating proximate, evolutionary and ecological correlates of personality variation in invertebrates may broaden our understanding of personality variation in general. In our opinion, personality studies on invertebrates are much needed, because invertebrates exhibit a range of aspects in their life histories, social and sexual behaviours that are extremely rare or absent in most studied vertebrates, but that offer new avenues for personality research. Examples are complete metamorphosis, male emasculation during copulation, asexual reproduction, eusociality and parasitism. Further invertebrate personality studies could enable a comparative approach to unravel how past selective forces have driven the evolution of personality differences. Finally, we point out the advantages of studying personality variation in many invertebrate species, such as easier access to relevant data on proximate and ultimate factors, arising from easy maintenance, fast life cycles and short generation times.