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Novel environment exploration and home range size in starlings Sturnus vulgaris

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jeroen Minderman, Professor Mark WhittinghamORCiD


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Individual variation in exploration behavior can affect fitness, can be individually consistent and heritable, and is increasingly measured as an animal personality trait in novel environment tests. Exploration speed in novel environment tests is generally found to be positively correlated with movement distances in wild animals, but such studies tend to be limited to single measures of exploration and rarely investigate the role of other correlates of movement behavior in the wild. We show that scores of the speed of exploration of wild juvenile starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in novel environment tests are not correlated with either the maximum extent of, or the size of the most frequently used part of, their home range. By contrast, scores that reflect what parts of the novel environment were explored are correlated with the size of the most frequently used area and tend to be correlated with the maximum home range size. The latter relationship was stronger for individuals that were on average found in larger flocks and for individuals with less suitable foraging habitat in their range. We conclude that aspects of exploration other than its speed may be better predictors of exploration in the wild for some species. Moreover, our findings further illustrate that the association between animal personality traits such as exploration behavior and the behavioral ecology of wild animals may depend on the environmental or social context. These findings are discussed in the context of individual variation in the response to environmental variability.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Minderman J, Reid JM, Hughes M, Denny MJH, Hogg S, Evans PGH, Whittingham MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Behavioral Ecology

Year: 2010

Volume: 21

Issue: 6

Pages: 1321-1329

Print publication date: 28/09/2010

ISSN (print): 1045-2249

ISSN (electronic): 1465-7279

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arq151


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Funder referenceFunder name
Fair Isle Bird Observatory Scholarship
Newcastle University
Royal Society
Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust
BB/B502214/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council