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Behavioral variation in natural contests: integrating plasticity and personality


Couchoux, Charline et al. (2020), Behavioral variation in natural contests: integrating plasticity and personality, Dryad, Dataset,


Animals often interact aggressively when competing over limited resources. Aggressive decisions can be complex, and may result from multiple sources of behavioral variation. The outcome of contests may be explained through contest theory and personality, by considering conjointly plasticity and individual consistency. This integrative approach also allows investigating individual differences in responsiveness to environmental changes. Here we observed multiple agonistic interactions occurring among eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) competing for food resources supplied at different distances from their burrows. Using an individual reaction norm approach, we found that the probability of winning a contest depended on an individual’s own intrinsic characteristics (mass, age, but not sex) but was also adjusted to characteristics of its opponents. Winning a contest also depended on extrinsic environmental characteristics such as distance to the contestants’ burrows, but not the order of arrival at the feeding patch. We found consistent individual differences in the probability of winning, potentially related to differences in aggressiveness and territoriality. We also found that individuals differed in their plasticity level in response to changes in different characteristics of their social and physical environments. Plasticity, personality and individual differences in responsiveness may thus all play a role in predicting contest outcome and in the evolution of animal contests.


For details on the methods see the Material and Methods section in the article.

Usage Notes

For details on the variables included in the dataset presented in the Excel file see the README file.