PITTSBURGHExamining the varying personality types of multiple animal species at oncein addition to common single-species studiescould help biologists better predict ecological outcomes, according to a recent University of Pittsburgh study.
By observing the interplay in a common predator-prey system (the jumping spider and the house cricket), a team of Pitt biologists found that it was the interactions between the personality types of two species that best predicted survival outcomesand not the personality types of either species alone. Their findings were highlighted in the September print issue of Behavioral Ecology.
"If we're interested in really understanding how individual personalities influence ecology, then we also have to acknowledge and accept that the personalities of many species or groups are also important," said Jonathan Pruitt, assistant professor of behavioral ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
The team began by tracking both species' activity levels to determine "personality" or behavior types. They started with the predator, collecting a population of spiders from Pitt's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. The researchers charted individual spiders' activity within a five-minute span, seeing how far they could climb to the top of a vile. Their activity levels were measured, and the tests were repeated over four weeks to ensure that individuals' behavior was repeatable. The team found that some individuals were consistently highly active, whereas other individuals of the same species were more sedentary.
The crickets, which were collected commercially, had a bit of a different test, given their prey status. With room to move in an open field, the Pitt biologists monitored the crickets' reaction times to a new place and their distance covered within five minutes. To ensure repeatability, this test was repeated over 10 days, once e
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University of Pittsburgh