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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Feb 7;274(1608):383-90.

Social personalities influence natal dispersal in a lizard.

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Laboratoire Fonctionnement et Evolution des Systèmes Ecologiques, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 7, quai Saint-Bernard, Bâtiment A, 7ème étage, case 237, 75005 Paris, France.


Animal personalities are common across taxa and have important evolutionary and ecological implications. Such consistent individual differences correlate with important life-history traits such as dispersal. Indeed, some environmental conditions are supposed to determine dispersers with a specific personality. For example, an increased density should promote the departure of individuals with less social tolerance. Therefore, we hypothesized that dispersers from high-density populations should primarily be asocial individuals, whereas dispersers from low-density populations should be social individuals. In the common lizard (Lacerta vivipara), we measured attraction towards the odour of conspecifics on juveniles at birth as a metric of social tolerance. We then released these juveniles into populations of different densities and measured dispersal and settlement behaviours with regard to social tolerance. One year later, we again measured the social tolerance of surviving individuals. The social tolerance is constant across time and strongly reflects the individual's dispersal and settlement patterns with respect to population density. These results strongly suggest that social personalities exist and influence dispersal decisions. Further studies will help to elucidate the proximate and ultimate determinants of social personalities.

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