Boldness, the way an individual reacts to risk, is a commonly studied personality trait in animals. Consistent among-individual differences in startle response durations (latency to recover from a startling stimulus) are frequently assumed to reflect variation in boldness. An alternative explanation is that these latencies are not directly driven by variation in responses to information on risk, but by underlying differences in dynamic performance capacities. Here we investigate this possibility by analysing relationships between locomotory speed, a measure of whole-body dynamic performance capacity in hermit crabs, and startle response duration, a repeatable latency measure used as an index of boldness. Individuals differed in mean startle response duration, in the consistency of their startle responses, in their reaction norms across repeated observations, and mean startle responses increased with crab mass. However, there were no relationships between startle responses and locomotory speed. This indicates that startle responses do not reflect underlying performance capacities and suggests that they provide insight into differences in how individuals respond to risky situations. Since similar latencies are used as measures of boldness in other animals, we suggest that potential relationships between apparent boldness and performance capacity should be tested.

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Biology Letters



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School of Biological and Marine Sciences