Consistency of temperament in bighorn ewes and correlates with behaviour and life history

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
D. Reale
Animal Behaviour
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Individual differences in temperament may affect how animals react to novel situations, avoid predation, invest in reproduction and behave in a variety of social contexts. Little information is available, however, about individual differences in temperament for wild animals. For bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis, ewes captured as part of a long-term study, we compared behaviour during handling to behaviour in the field and reproductive history. We considered ‘bold’ ewes those that were frequently trapped during the summer, and assigned to each ewe a docility index based on her behaviour during handling. Measurements of temperament for the same individual at different captures were highly consistent. Temperament was not affected by reproductive status or age, nor was it related to body mass. Correlations between behaviour at the trap and in the field were weak and mostly nonsignificant, suggesting that temperament is domain specific rather than domain general. Bold ewes tended to start reproducing earlier and have higher weaning success than shy ewes. Variability in temperamental traits in the study population could be maintained by life-history trade-offs and by yearly changes in selective pressures.


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