Date: April 8, 2019
Source: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Bold great tits lay their eggs earlier when under threat, the shy ones put it off. Such personality differences help maintain the biological variation essential for the survival of populations, as Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich biologists have now shown.
Bird populations can adapt to environmental change, as revealed by their flexible choice of the optimal time for rearing their chicks. Thus high temperatures induce them to begin nest building and egg-laying early in the year. In colder years, they tend to postpone the whole business until later. Natural selection favors such behavioral adaptability -- provided that the required variation is available, i.e. genetic variants are present that confer 'phenotypic plasticity' on local populations. A study of great tits (Parus major), carried out by LMU behavioral biologist Niels Dingemanse and his doctoral student Robin Abbey-Lee, has now shown that this adaptability is in part attributable to differences in character and 'personality' between individuals. Their findings appear in the online journal Nature Communications.