CZAAWE Resource Article

Development of boldness and docility in yellow-bellied marmots
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Animal Behaviour
Personality traits are important because they can affect individual survival as well as how a population may respond to environmental change. How these traits arise, whether they are maintained throughout ontogeny, and how environmental factors differentially affect them throughout life is poorly understood. Understanding these pathways is important for determining the function and evolution of animal personality. We examined the development of two commonly studied personality traits, boldness and docility, in a long-term study of yellow-bellied marmots, Marmota flaviventris. Using data collected between 2002 and 2011, we quantified the repeatability within three age groups (juveniles, yearlings and adults), the correlation between age classes, and the behavioural syndromes of these two traits within the three life stages. We quantified boldness through flight initiation distance (FID) tests, and we quantified docility through marmots' response to being trapped. We found that boldness was repeatable only in yearlings, but docility was repeatable in all age classes. We also found that juvenile docility predicted later docility. We also found no behavioural syndrome between boldness and docility in any life stage. This suggests an adaptive hypothesis: that these personality traits develop independently and at potentially age-appropriate times. Thus, the development of personality traits may facilitate animal's coping with age-dependent requirements and constraints.