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Effects of density and season on animal personality

In natural populations, iteroparous small mammals are regularly confronted with fluctuating population densities which is connected to different life-history trajectories. Those trajectories may co-vary with behaviour, specifically with consistent individual differences in behaviour.  

Thus, we are investigating whether there is there a fluctuating adaptation of animal personality types to (predictable) population density trajectories, and whether or not there is individual plasticity in personality traits over time, during which both density and season are changing.

We are conducting a long-term experiment, where we set up experimental populations of different population densities in large outdoor enclosures, creating near natural conditions. Individuals are monitored and their personality is repeatedly assessed throughout the experiment via regular life trapping and personality testing on site.


Eccard J A, Herde A, Schuster A, Liesenjohann T, Knopp T, Heckel G & Dammhahn M (in press) Fitness, risk taking and spatial behaviour covary with animal personality in experimental vole populations. Ecology and Evolution

Schneeberger K & Eccard J A (2021). Experience of social density during early life is associated with attraction to conspecific odour in the common vole (Microtus arvalis). Ethology, 127, 908– 913.

Eccard JA, Herde A (2013) Seasonal variation in the behaviour of a short-lived rodent. BMC ecology 13:43

Herde A, Eccard JA (2013) Consistency in boldness, activity and exploration at different stages of life. BMC ecology 13:49