Unpredictability in food supply during early life influences boldness in fish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Behavioral variation has been documented both between and within populations in a variety of traits. Many of these behavioral traits are phenotypically plastic and are conditional on the early environment an animal experiences, yet despite this the role of the environment in generating variation in boldness is not well understood. Here we investigate the importance of early and recent experience of temporal unpredictability in food supply on the behavior of a species of freshwater fish, the Trinidadian guppy Poecilia mticulata. We predict that individuals that experience temporally unpredictable food supplies will engage in more risky behavior than those experiencing a Predictable food supply and find evidence to support this. Fish with early experience of unpredictable environments are generally bolder and more exploratory than fish reared in predictable environments, exploring a significantly greater proportion of a novel maze and spending less time in a refuge during the trial. Individuals with early experience of unpredictability also spent significantly less time associating with conspecifics in a shoaling tendency assay, again suggesting that they are bolder than guppies reared in predictable conditions. These findings suggest that early experience is important in shaping exploratory anti shoaling behavior in this species and that unpredictability in early life can influence boldness in guppies.


  • Ben Chapman
  • Lesley J. Morrell
  • Jens Krause
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology


  • environment, unpredictable, shoaling, phenotypic plasticity, boldness, exploration
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-506
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch