Jolles, J. W., Aaron-Taylor, B., Manica, A. 2016. Recent social conditions affect boldness repeatability in individual sticklebacks. Animal Behaviour 112, 139-145.
Animal personalities are ubiquitous across the animal kingdom and have been shown both to influence individual behaviour in the social context and to be affected by it. However, little attention has been paid to possible carryover effects of social conditions on personality expression, especially when individuals are alone. Here we investigated how the recent social context affected the boldness and repeatability of three-spined sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus, during individual assays. We housed fish either solitarily, solitarily part of the time or socially in groups of four, and subjected them twice to a risk-taking task. The social conditions had a large effect on boldness repeatability, with fish housed solitarily before the trials showing much higher behavioural repeatability than fish housed socially, for which repeatability was not significant. Social conditions also had a temporal effect on the boldness of the fish, with only fish housed solitarily taking more risks during the first than the second trial. These results show that recent social conditions can thus affect the short-term repeatability of behaviour and obfuscate the expression of personality even in later contexts when individuals are alone. This finding highlights the need to consider social housing conditions when designing personality studies and emphasizes the important link between animal personality and the social context by showing the potential role of social carryover effects.