The effects of personality on survival and trappability in a wild mouse during a population cycle

Bram Vanden Broecke, Vincent Sluydts, Joachim Marien, Christopher Andrew Sabuni, Apia W. Massawe, Erik Matthysen, Herwig Leirs

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


The pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) theory provides an evolutionary explanation for the existence of consistent among-individual variation in behaviour, or animal personality. Herein, individuals with a fast lifestyle are considered to be bolder and should take more risks resulting in a lower life expectancy compared to shyer individuals with a slower lifestyle. However, this assumption depends on the levels of intra-specific competition that the individuals experience which has rarely been tested in species that experience large changes in competition on a very short time scale. We used the multimammate mice (Mastomys natalensis) as a model system to study the POLS assumption by investigating the effects of two personality traits (exploration and stress-sensitivity) on survival, maturation (a proxy for reproductive investment) and recapture probability during one population cycle (N-individuals = 201). Such a cycle consists of two phases in which the levels of intra-specific competition vary drastically. We found that only one personality trait, namely stress-sensitivity, had a negative effect on both survival and recapture probability but none of them affected maturation. This suggests that less stress-sensitive individuals take more risks in the wild and have a higher survival probability compared to high stress-sensitive individuals. However, the effect of personality on survival was only present during the population decrease phase, when the levels of intra-specific competition are high due to a scarcity of food. This suggests that seasonal changes in competition might be important in the evolution and maintenance of animal personalities in species whose population dynamics have a clear seasonal component.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-913
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Exploration
  • Stress-sensitivity
  • Density
  • Pace-of-life syndrome
  • Capture&#8211
  • mark&#8211
  • recapture
  • Mastomys natalensis


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