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Horm Behav. 2007 Nov;52(4):445-53. Epub 2007 Jun 29.

Speed of exploration and risk-taking behavior are linked to corticosterone titres in zebra finches.

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Centre for Ecology and Conservation, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9EZ, UK.


The existence of consistent individual differences in behavioral strategies ("personalities" or coping styles) has been reported in several animal species. Recent work in great tits has shown that such traits are heritable and exhibit significant genetic variation. Free-living birds respond to environmental stresses by up-regulating corticosterone production. Behavior during mild stress can occur in accordance to two types of coping styles, i.e. active and passive. Using artificially selected lines of zebra finches that vary in the amount of corticosterone produced in response to a manual restraint stressor we ran three "personality" experiments. We show that birds in the different corticosterone lines differ in their exploratory and risk-taking behaviors. There was an increase in exploratory behavior as corticosterone titre increased but only in the low corticosterone line. Birds in high corticosterone line showed greater risk-taking behavior than birds in the other lines. Thus, in general, higher levels of circulating corticosterone following a mild stress result in greater exploratory behavior and greater risk taking. This study shows that lines of animals selected for endocrine hormonal responses differ in their "coping" styles or "personalities".

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