Inter-individual differences and coexistence

Individual and species niches
Image: Annika Schirmer

In natural Populations individuals of one species consistently differ in their behavioural traits. These inter-individual differences, i.e. animal personality traits, entail great ecological consequences through influencing for example space use, life history parameters and species interactions. In this project we investigate to what extent inter-individual differences in movement-related behaviour, act as mechanisms for the coexistence of small mammal species. This approach is a step further from the well studied way of investigating species coexistence based on dissimilarities between species mean traits. We relate our results to the newly emerging research area of individual ecological niches and modern coexistence theory, especially in terms of the equalizing/stabilising mechanism concept. Overall, the consideration of within-individual differences might facilitate a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive species coexistence and the shaping of local biodiversity.

In this project we follow the methodical approach of observing covariation of quantitive measures of personality traits, boldness and exploration, with space use parameters as well as spatial parameters of static and dynamic interactions between con- and heterospecifics. The observation of space use and spatial interactions rely on a mobile setup of an automatic radio telemetry system. Personality traits are quantified directly in the field under natural surrounding condtions.  Within the project we analyse patterns in natural populations of coexisting rodent species as well as persue experimental approaches under semi-natural conditions.

This project is part of the DFG-funded research training group “Integrating Biodiversity Research with Movement Ecology in dynamic agricultural landscapes” (BioMove).

Individual and species niches
Image: Annika Schirmer

Project Members

Dr. Annika Schirmer

Dr. Melanie Dammhahn

Prof. Dr. Jana Eccard


Schirmer A, Hoffmann J, Eccard JA, Dammhahn M (2020) My niche: individual spatial niche specialization affects within- and between-species interactions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 287:20192211 .

Schirmer A, Herde A, Eccard JA, Dammhahn M (2019) Individuals in space: Personality-dependent space use, movement and microhabitat use facilitate individual spatial niche spezialisation. Oecologia,