How do anthropogenic contaminants (ACs) affect behaviour? Multi-level analysis of the effects of copper on boldness in hermit crabs.
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Natural animal populations are increasingly exposed to human impacts on the environment, which could have consequences for their behaviour. Among these impacts is exposure to anthropogenic contaminants. Any environmental variable that influences internal state could impact behaviour across a number of levels: at the sample mean, at the level of among-individual differences in behaviour ('animal personality') and at the level of within-individual variation in behaviour (intra-individual variation, 'IIV'). Here we examined the effect of exposure to seawater-borne copper on the startle response behaviour of European hermit crabs, Pagurus bernhardus across these levels. Copper exposure rapidly led to longer startle responses on average, but did not lead to any change in repeatability indicating that individual differences were present and equally consistent in the presence and absence of copper. There was no strong evidence that copper exposure led to changes in IIV. Our data show that exposure to copper for 1 week produces sample mean level changes in the behaviour of hermit crabs. However, there is no evidence that this exposure led to changes in repeatability through feedback loops.
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