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Doctoral thesis, 2012

Phenotypic and social effects on behavioural trade-offs in Eurasian perch

Hellström, Gustav


Trading between conflicting demands is a fundamental part in how animals interact with its environment and social surrounding. Knowledge of what factors that are affecting behavioural decisions is central in our understanding of animal adaptation and ecology. This thesis summarizes a series of behavioural experiments investigating how animals compromise behaviours depending on environmental background and context. The focus is on within- and between-population variation in risk-taking and social trade-offs in young of the year and one year old Eurasian perch. Perch behaviour was quantified by observational studies in aquaria, using standardized assays that captured perch boldness and sociability. Perch from different predation backgrounds were compared in common garden experiments, as well as in multi-year inter-population comparisons, to study influence of predation experience on risk-taking phenotype. Results demonstrate predation as an important factor underlying how perch balance risk. Variation in risk-taking phenotype could to a large extent be explained by individual differences in experience of predation, rather than by fixed inherited responses caused by divergent selection. Experience of predation had long lasting effects on perch boldness, but perch were also able to quickly adjust phenotype in response to current conditions, indicating temporal flexibility in how experience shape behaviour. Social context influenced behaviour, with fish being bolder in larger group, and showing higher behavioural conformity. Occurrence of consistent individual variation in risk-taking and social behaviour could be established, confirming the existence of a personality dimension in perch behaviour. The thesis concludes that variation in how perch trade-off conflicting behaviours exists at multiple levels, from population to individual. Behavioural plasticity, even in strongly fitness related traits, is evident, although potential behavioural constraints in the form of consistent individuality is also present.


boldness; adaptation; predation; sociability; risk; experience; perca fluviatilis

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2012, number: 2012:69
ISBN: 978-91-576-7716-7
Publisher: Institutionen för vilt, fisk och miljö, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies

UKÄ Subject classification

Behavioral Sciences Biology

URI (permanent link to this page)