Individual variation in cognitive style reflects foraging and anti-predator strategies in a small mammal

Mazza, Valeria; Jacob, Jens GND; Dammhahn, Melanie; Zaccaroni, Marco; Eccard, Jana A.

Balancing foraging gain and predation risk is a fundamental trade-off in the life of animals. Individual strategies to acquire, process, store and use information to solve cognitive tasks are likely to affect speed and flexibility of learning, and ecologically relevant decisions regarding foraging and predation risk. Theory suggests a functional link between individual variation in cognitive style and behaviour (animal personality) via speed-accuracy and risk-reward trade-offs. We tested whether cognitive style and personality affect risk-reward trade-off decisions posed by foraging and predation risk. We exposed 21 bank voles (Myodes glareolus) that were bold, fast learning and inflexible and 18 voles that were shy, slow learning and flexible to outdoor enclosures with different risk levels at two food patches. We quantified individual food patch exploitation, foraging and vigilance behaviour. Although both types responded to risk, fast animals increasingly exploited both food patches, gaining access to more food and spending less time searching and exercising vigilance. Slow animals progressively avoided high-risk areas, concentrating foraging effort in the low-risk one, and devoting >50% of visit to vigilance. These patterns indicate that individual differences in cognitive style/personality are reflected in foraging and anti-predator decisions that underlie the individual risk-reward bias.

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Mazza, Valeria / Jacob, Jens / Dammhahn, Melanie / et al: Individual variation in cognitive style reflects foraging and anti-predator strategies in a small mammal. 2019.

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