Interacting with the enemy: indirect effects of personality on conspecific aggression in crickets

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In animal contests, individuals respond plastically to the phenotypes of the opponents that they confront. These “opponent”—or “indirect”—effects are often repeatable, for example, certain opponents consistently elicit more or less aggressiveness in others. “Personality” (repeatable among-individual variation in behavior) has been proposed as an important source of indirect effects. Here, we repeatedly assayed aggressiveness of wild-caught adult male field crickets Gryllus campestris in staged dyadic fights, measuring aggressiveness of both contestants. Measurements of their personality in nonsocial contexts (activity and exploration behavior) enabled us to ask whether personality caused indirect effects on aggressiveness. Activity, exploration, and aggressiveness were positively associated into a behavioral syndrome eliciting aggressiveness in conspecifics, providing direct evidence for the role of personality in causing indirect effects. Our findings imply that a multivariate view of phenotypes that includes indirect effects greatly improves our ability to understand the ecology and evolution of behavior.

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