Adaptive behavioural syndromes due to strategic niche specialization

Bergmüller, Ralph; Taborsky, Michael (2007). Adaptive behavioural syndromes due to strategic niche specialization. BMC evolutionary biology, 7(1), p. 12. London: BioMed Central 10.1186/1472-6785-7-12

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BACKGROUND: Behavioural syndromes, i.e. consistent individual differences in behaviours that are correlated across different functional contexts, are a challenge to evolutionary reasoning because individuals should adapt their behaviour to the requirements of each situation. Behavioural syndromes are often interpreted as a result of constraints resulting in limited plasticity and inflexible behaviour. Alternatively, they may be adaptive if correlated ecological or social challenges functionally integrate apparently independent behaviours. To test the latter hypothesis we repeatedly tested helpers in the cooperative breeder Neolamprologus pulcher for exploration and two types of helping behaviour. In case of adaptive behavioural syndromes we predicted a positive relationship between exploration and aggressive helping (territory defence) and a negative relationship between these behaviours and non-aggressive helping (territory maintenance). RESULTS: As expected, helpers engaging more in territory defence were consistently more explorative and engaged less in territory maintenance, the latter only when dominant breeders were present. Contrary to our prediction, there was no negative relationship between exploration and territory maintenance. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the three behaviours we measured are part of behavioural syndromes. These may be adaptive, in that they reflect strategic specialization of helpers into one of two different life history strategies, namely (a) to stay and help in the home territory in order to inherit the breeding position or (b) to disperse early in order to breed independently.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Behavioural Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Taborsky, Michael




BioMed Central




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:58

Last Modified:

08 Jun 2016 10:44

Publisher DOI:




URI: (FactScience: 56037)

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