Behavioural consequences of divergent selection on general locomotor activity in chickens
General locomotor activity is a highly variable phenotypic trait of animals. In domestic chickens it is different within and between breeds. The general locomotor activity is a substantially heritable trait and has been shown to be correlated with several other behavioural traits, such as for example feather pecking and anxiety in chickens. However, whether there is a relation between different levels of general locomotor activity and behavioural changes remained unclear. Therefore, a selection line model system has been established, where hens from the same founder population were selected over eight generations for either high or low general locomotor activity. The selection led to significant increases, respectively decreases in general locomotor activity and differences in growth. We here tested 128 hens of the 8th generation in three behavioural tests. We assumed fearfulness to be affected from selection on general locomotor activity, which we tested in a tonic immobility test. Socio-positive and socio-negative behaviours were tested in respective test paradigms. Fearfulness was higher in hens selected for high general locomotor activity. Social behavioural traits and feather pecking were not affected by selection for general locomotor activity. Evolutionary mechanisms that link fear and general locomotor activity are discussed and also why social behaviours and feather pecking seems not to be affected from selection on general locomotor activity. Our results provide interesting new insights on how selection on one trait, general locomotor activity, affects the behavioural phenotype in other dimensions too.