Syndromes or flexibility: Behavior during a life history transition of a coral reef fish

J.R. White, M.I. Mccormick, Mark Meekan

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9 Citations (Scopus)


The theory of behavioral syndromes focuses on quantifying variation in behavior within and among individual organisms and attempts to account for the maintenance of differences in behavior that occur in a consistent manner among individuals. Behavioral syndromes have potentially important ecological consequences (e.g. survivorship tradeoffs) and can be shaped by population dynamics through selective mortality. Here, we search for any evidence for consistency of behavior across situations in juveniles of a common damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis (Pomacentridae) at the transition between larval habitats in the plankton and juvenile habitats on the reef. Naïve fish leaving the pelagic phase to settle on reefs were caught by light traps and their behaviors observed using similar methods across three different situations (small aquaria, large aquaria, field setting); all of which represent low risk and well-sheltered environments. Seven behavioral traits were compared within and among individuals across situations to determine if consistent behavioral syndromes existed. No consistency was found in any single or combination of behavioral traits for individuals across all situations. We suggest that high behavioral flexibility is likely beneficial for newly-settled fish at this ontogenetic transition and it is possible that consistent behavioral syndromes are unlikely to emerge in juveniles until environmental experience is gained or certain combinations of behaviors are favored by selective mortality. © 2013 White et al.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)Article number e84262
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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