Personality in captivity

more exploratory males reproduce better in an aviary population

Luke S C McCowan*, Lee Ann Rollins, Simon C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


The existence of animal personality is well-established across a wide range of species, with the majority of evidence for this being obtained from individuals held in captivity. However, there has been little work assessing the influence of commonly-measured personality traits on fitness, which is pertinent when the genetic basis of personality is considered. We measured whether the reproductive behaviour and success of zebra finches in a captive mixed-sex aviary environment was influenced by an aspect of their personality, their exploratory behaviour in a single-sex social aviary. We found that more exploratory males made a greater number of breeding attempts and raised more nestlings than less exploratory males. These results were not confounded by extra-pair paternity, which was not related to personality, or by the individuals that did not initiate any reproductive attempts at all. Our work provides evidence that attributes of personality may influence the degree to which individuals cope with, and thrive in a captive environment and this should be accounted for in both experimental design and the interpretation of results. Furthermore, this suggests that there may be selection on these traits as part of the domestication process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-157
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Processes
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • Domestication
  • Exploratory behaviour
  • Extra-pair paternity
  • Reproduction

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