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Personality and information use in fish: bolder crucian carps learn faster

Engman, Mattias (2014) BIOM35 20131
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Abstract

Gathering information about the environment is crucial to living organisms as it makes up the foundation upon which decisions are made. In a diverse environment a huge amount of information sources arise. An individual can choose to follow other’s decision (social information use) or to gather its’ own information. Which sources are used and how well they are perceived vary between individuals, and what underlies the variation is not well understood. One possible factor is personality, i.e. consistent individual differences in behavior. The link between personality, learning and use of social information has previously received little attention. In this study, I investigated the relationship between boldness and learning in... (More)
Abstract

Gathering information about the environment is crucial to living organisms as it makes up the foundation upon which decisions are made. In a diverse environment a huge amount of information sources arise. An individual can choose to follow other’s decision (social information use) or to gather its’ own information. Which sources are used and how well they are perceived vary between individuals, and what underlies the variation is not well understood. One possible factor is personality, i.e. consistent individual differences in behavior. The link between personality, learning and use of social information has previously received little attention. In this study, I investigated the relationship between boldness and learning in crucian carp, Carassius carassius, by individually training them in a foraging task using feeders of different colors. Furthermore I tested if boldness was related to the use of personal versus social information by letting the previous personal information conflict with social information demonstrated by conspecifics through local enhancement. Bolder individuals learnt faster in the personal foraging tasks while there was no significant relationship between personality and personal versus social information use. My results show that personality can affect the learning speed expressed by individuals. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Popular science summary:

Bolder the brighter – personality affects learning performance in crucian carp

Just as humans, many animals have a personality. For example some individuals are more prone to take risks – they are bold, while others prefer to play it safe – being shy. Bold animals increase their risk of being attacked by a predator but may also receive higher gains by being first to a food source or a mate. Recent research shows that one personality trait is often followed by another. For example it is possible that shyer individuals rather use information provided by others than collecting it themselves or that bolder animals learn faster.

By using crucian carp (Carassius carassius), a close relative to goldfish, in a... (More)
Popular science summary:

Bolder the brighter – personality affects learning performance in crucian carp

Just as humans, many animals have a personality. For example some individuals are more prone to take risks – they are bold, while others prefer to play it safe – being shy. Bold animals increase their risk of being attacked by a predator but may also receive higher gains by being first to a food source or a mate. Recent research shows that one personality trait is often followed by another. For example it is possible that shyer individuals rather use information provided by others than collecting it themselves or that bolder animals learn faster.

By using crucian carp (Carassius carassius), a close relative to goldfish, in a number of behavioral assays I studied the relation between boldness and how fast they learn and what kind of information they use. First I measured how long it took for the fish to learn to find food in a feeder of one color and to ignore an empty feeder of another color. I then tested if the fish would use their previously learned information or rather rely on their mates which were feeding from the feeder which earlier had been empty.

Results and conclusions
My results show that bolder crucian carps would learn faster than shyer ones. In the beginning there were no difference in how fast the fishes would arrive to the feeder, but after three learning sessions bold fishes were significantly quicker. Therefore it was possible to exclude that bolder fish performed better due to being more risk taking as personality had no effect from the beginning but rather was something that was gained by training.

I found no effect of personality on the use of information. This could be due to a stressful environment were the fish may have prioritized to shoal instead of feeding or that crucian carps have a poor ability to perceive social signals.

A possible explanation for shyer individuals to be poorer learners is that they stay open-minded or that they are better at other kinds of learning, like observing what others are doing. Learning is a fundamental part of an animal’s behavior and by understanding how it varies between individuals it can help us predict their survival in different environments and their responses to changes.

Supervisor: Ben Chapman
Master´s Degree Project 30 credits in Aquatic Ecology 2014
Department of Biology, Lund University (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Engman, Mattias
supervisor
organization
course
BIOM35 20131
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
4498798
date added to LUP
2014-06-23 10:56:56
date last changed
2014-06-23 10:56:56
@misc{4498798,
  abstract     = {Abstract 

Gathering information about the environment is crucial to living organisms as it makes up the foundation upon which decisions are made. In a diverse environment a huge amount of information sources arise. An individual can choose to follow other’s decision (social information use) or to gather its’ own information. Which sources are used and how well they are perceived vary between individuals, and what underlies the variation is not well understood. One possible factor is personality, i.e. consistent individual differences in behavior. The link between personality, learning and use of social information has previously received little attention. In this study, I investigated the relationship between boldness and learning in crucian carp, Carassius carassius, by individually training them in a foraging task using feeders of different colors. Furthermore I tested if boldness was related to the use of personal versus social information by letting the previous personal information conflict with social information demonstrated by conspecifics through local enhancement. Bolder individuals learnt faster in the personal foraging tasks while there was no significant relationship between personality and personal versus social information use. My results show that personality can affect the learning speed expressed by individuals.},
  author       = {Engman, Mattias},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Personality and information use in fish: bolder crucian carps learn faster},
  year         = {2014},
}