High in situ repeatability of behaviour indicates animal personality in the beadlet anemone Actinia equina (Cnidaria).
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'Animal personality' means that individuals differ from one another in either single behaviours or suites of related behaviours in a way that is consistent over time. It is usually assumed that such consistent individual differences in behaviour are driven by variation in how individuals respond to information about their environment, rather than by differences in external factors such as variation in microhabitat. Since behavioural variation is ubiquitous in nature we might expect 'animal personality' to be present in diverse taxa, including animals with relatively simple nervous systems. We investigated in situ startle responses in a sea anemone, Actinia equina, to determine whether personalities might be present in this example of an animal with a simple nervous system. We found very high levels of repeatability among individuals that were re-identified in the same locations over a three week sampling period. In a subset of the data, where we used tide-pool temperature measurements to control for a key element of variation in microhabitat, these high levels of repeatability remained. Although a range of other consistent differences in micro-habitat features could have contributed to consistent differences between the behaviour of individuals, these data suggest the presence of animal personality in A. equina. Rather than being restricted to certain groups, personality may be a general feature of animals and may be particularly pronounced in species with simple nervous systems.
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