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The female perspective of personality variation in a wild songbird: integrating female competition within life history.

Individual differences in the expression of traits that improve competitive ability ("competitive traits"; e.g. aggression, ornaments) might play a major role in life history trade-offs, but this is rarely examined in females. At the same time, it has become increasingly clear that individuals often consistently differ in a whole suite of behavioural traits, known as personality. This highlights that behavioural traits (like aggression) should not be studied in isolation given they might not be able to evolve independently under selection. Understanding the selective forces acting on competitive traits in females hence requires their integration within both a personality and life history framework, which will be done here for the first time. Using the great tit (a songbird species) as a model, I will examine whether females consistently differ in a wide variety of ecologically relevant behaviours (female-female aggression, nest defence, exploration) and whether this is associated with differences in melanin-based plumage traits and investment in parental care. Solid integration within life history will be done by examining the link with life time fitness variation and telomere dynamics, a potential underlying proximate variable. At the end of this project I aim to have generated a better understanding of the costs and benefits associated with different female competitive phenotypes, and hence why they exist and how they are maintained.
Date:1 Oct 2019  →  Today
Disciplines:Animal ecology