Establishing behavioural repeatability is important in animal personality research; however, a range of factors can influence repeatability. Experimental design, particularly acclimation time, is important in managing a subject’s stress prior to the onset of behavioural observations. Acclimatisation also ensures we capture “normal” behaviour and promotes consistency in the subject’s responses between observations. The importance of acclimatisation prior to an assay is widely recognised by animal researchers; however, acclimation time varies dramatically across personality studies. Here, we investigated the effects of acclimatisation time on the repeatability of activity and emergence behaviour in feral and domestic populations of lab-reared guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Contrary with expectations and previous findings, we found highest repeatability in guppy activity levels after 2 h of acclimation to the test arena. In the emergence assay, fish exposed to 10 min of acclimatisation showed highest repeatability; however, all acclimation periods produced high repeatability, suggesting that the emergence assay generates robust behavioural responses irrespective of acclimation time. The outcomes were broadly consistent across both populations. These results show that methodology can impact the findings of animal personality research and needs to be considered carefully for each assay. We recommend that researchers investigate appropriate acclimatisation times for their study species prior to commencing research.
- behavioural plasticity