Puffed and bothered: Personality, performance, and the effects of stress on checkered pufferfish.
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Although consistent individual-level differences in behaviour are widespread and potentially important in evolutionary and ecological processes, relatively few studies focus on the physiological mechanisms that might underlie and regulate these individual-level differences in wild populations. We conducted experiments to determine whether checkered pufferfish (Sphoeroides testudineus), which were collected from a dynamic (in terms of depth and water temperature) tidal mangrove creek environment in The Bahamas, have consistent individual-level differences in locomotor activity and the response to a simulated predator threat, as well as swimming performance and puffing in response to stressors. The relationships between personality and performance traits were evaluated to determine whether they represented stress-coping styles or syndromes. Subsequently, a displacement study was conducted to determine how personality and performance in the laboratory compared to movements in the field. In addition, we tested whether a physiological dose of the stress hormone cortisol would alter individual consistency in behavioural and performance traits. We found that pufferfish exhibited consistent individual differences in personality traits over time (e.g., activity and the duration of a response to a threat) and that performance was consistent between the lab and the natural enclosure. Locomotor activity and the duration of startled behaviour were not associated with swimming and puffing performance. Locomotor activity, puffing performance, and swimming performance were not related to whether fish returned to the tidal creek of capture after displacement. Similarly, a cortisol treatment did not modify behaviour or performance in the laboratory. The results reveal that consistent individual-level differences in behaviour and performance were present in a population from a fluctuating and physiologically challenging environment but that such traits are not necessarily correlated. We also determined that certain individual performance traits were repeatable between the lab and a natural enclosure. However, we found no evidence of a relationship between exogenous cortisol levels and behavioural traits or performance in these fish, which suggests that other internal and external mechanisms may underlie the behaviours and performance tested.
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