A Comparison of Measures of Boldness and Their Relationships to Survival in Young Fish

J.R. White, Mark Meekan, M.I. Mccormick, M.C.O. Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)


Boldness is the propensity of an animal to engage in risky behavior. Many variations of novel-object or novel-environment tests have been used to quantify the boldness of animals, although the relationship between test outcomes has rarely been investigated. Furthermore, the relationship of outcomes to any ecological aspect of fitness is generally assumed, rather than measured directly. Our study is the first to compare how the outcomes of the same test of boldness differ among observers and how different tests of boldness relate to the survival of individuals in the field. Newly-metamorphosed lemon damselfish, Pomacentrus moluccensis, were placed onto replicate patches of natural habitat. Individual behavior was quantified using four tests (composed of a total of 12 different measures of behavior): latency to enter a novel environment, activity in a novel environment, and reactions to threatening and benign novel objects. After behavior was quantified, survival was monitored for two days during which time fish were exposed to natural predators. Variation among observers was low for most of the 12 measures, except distance moved and the threat test (reaction to probe thrust), which displayed unacceptable amounts of inter-observer variation. Overall, the results of the behavioral tests suggested that novel environment and novel object tests quantified similar behaviors, yet these behavioral measures were not interchangeable. Multiple measures of behavior within the context of novel environment or object tests were the most robust way to assess boldness and these measures have a complex relationship with survivorship of young fish in the field. Body size and distance ventured from shelter were the only variables that had a direct and positive relationship with survival. © 2013 White et al.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11pp
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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