Skip to main content

Data for: The association between personalities, alternative breeding strategies, and reproductive success in dunnocks

Cite this dataset

Holtmann, Benedikt et al. (2021). Data for: The association between personalities, alternative breeding strategies, and reproductive success in dunnocks [Dataset]. Dryad.


Although consistent between-individual differences in behaviour (i.e. animal personality) are ubiquitous in natural populations, relatively few studies have examined how personalities influence the formation of social relationships. Yet, behavioural characteristics of both sexes might be key when it comes to pair-bond formation, and the cooperation with partners to successfully rear offspring. We here use a wild population of dunnocks (Prunella modularis) to first investigate whether individuals mate non-randomly (i.e. assortative mating) with regard to four behavioural traits – flight-initiation distance (FID), provisioning, activity, and vigilance – that differ in repeatability and have previously been associated with mating patterns and fitness in other species. Second, we test whether an individual’s FID is associated with variability in the dunnocks’ mating system (i.e. monogamous pairs vs. polygamous groups). Finally, we determine whether FID and provisioning of males and females associate with their reproductive success. We found no statistical support for assortative mating in FID between males and females. Interestingly, in polygamous groups, co-breeding males differed in their FIDs with dominant alpha-males having significantly shorter FIDs compared to subordinate beta-males. Moreover, there was evidence for assortative mating in provisioning for alpha-males and females in polygamous groups. We also found that male provisioning influenced reproductive success of both sexes, while female provisioning rates only positively correlated with her own but not their partner(s) reproductive output. Our results suggest that personality differences may have important implications for social relationships, the emergence of different mating patterns and ultimately reproductive success within populations.


This research was conducted as part of a long-term study on a wild population of dunnocks (Prunella modularis) at the Dunedin Botanic Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand between 2012-2014. The data and accompanied R-scripts for the following statistical analyses are included:

01. Repeatability (activity, flight-initiation-distance, vigilance, provisioning)

02. Assortative mating (flight-initiation-distance, provisioning)

03. Association between FID and mating system

04. Associations between FID or provisioning and reproductive success

We conducted all data analyses in R v. 4.0.2 (R Core Team, 2020), and all models were fitted within a Bayesian framework using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods in the MCMCglmm package (Hadfield, 2010). Please also refer to the Methods section of the main manuscript for a detailed description of behavioural traits and conducted analyses. 


University of Otago, Award: Doctoral Scholarship

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: HO 6288/1-1

Rutherford Discovery Fellowship

Future Fellowship, Award: FT130100268